Sources in Wellington have provided the writer with a pre-release version of the report detailing the planned resolution to the major damage to the Kopu-Hikuai Road. Due to be released this Saturday, the report details a multi-modal replacement for the damaged road and provides explanation to the decision-making process.
The fact that the Government is signing off on a multi-modal route should not be a surprise to anyone, as they have consistently favoured this type of route. What may be a surprise is the modes of transport to be catered for as the new route will incorporate a road, a bicycle track and a canal. This combination obviously will not go over the hill, but through it.
In the explanation notes, the Minister of Transport proclaimed, “by using the canal boats; for the first-time residents of places such as Whitianga and Tairua would be able to travel to and fro regardless of the conditions of the roads”. This is a major step forward from a truly transformational Government,” he stated.
It appears a perfect storm of opportunity has enabled this novel plan to take shape. Firstly, the drilling machine used for the Auckland City Rail Link is about to become free for other projects. The other major impetus for this project was the Government deciding to partner with Polyas Mining, one of the larger gold mining companies in the World. Polyas will operate the tunnelling machine at no cost to the Government but on the basis that any gold they find, they can keep. This reduces the Government’s investment to a fraction of what it could have been, basically just covering the cost of concrete and formworks.
The proposed route involves an open canal from the Waihou River for a few kilometres before it enters the tunnel, eventually leaving this at the Puketui Valley. From there an open canal will be used to meet up with the Pauanui River. The canal will be sufficient for catamarans of the size currently in service to use. The sea and rivers at each end will be used to complete the routes, enabling catamarans to make the journey to Whitianga with ease. The road and Cycle lanes will use current roads to and from the tunnel, in which they will both have a lane either side of the canal.
The explanation notes provided an insight that all was not perfect with the plan. Due to the requirements of the canal, the road was to be limited to one lane. The Minister stated, “It is up to the residents if they want the lane to be east to west or west to east”. Indications are you will need to find an alternative route for the other leg. The Minister was unfazed by this as he went on to state that, “If you need to go there and back, take a bike. The cycle lane is wide enough to take traffic in both directions”.
This is possibly not the news we were waiting to hear, but it is progress, nevertheless. Some aspects appeared not to be covered by the report. We felt more attention should have been paid to security. Is there a chance that a lost kayaker could get into trouble in the dark? Are powered scooters to be allowed? Of course, historical rights must be observed and the report did include a small appendage that the intention was to discuss white bait fishing zones for Iwi on both sides of the Peninsula. We are encouraged however, and eagerly await the project commencement.