Labour will build a new road to replace the Manawatu Gorge Road as quickly as possible, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.
“I am committing Labour to building a new road as quickly as possible. We will use all the powers of government to speed up consenting and construction of the new route, likely to the north of the gorge through the Te Apiti wind farm.
“Since the 14-month closure in 2011/12, it has been obvious that a new, permanent route is needed but National hasn’t been willing to make investment in the regions. Even now, National is dragging their feet with no detail or timetable. The regions that depend on this connection are rightly losing their patience with National’s lack of action.
“It is sad to say goodbye to the iconic Manawatu Gorge Road but, even if it could be re-opened, it has become too unreliable and expensive.
“Over the past decade, the Gorge Road has been closed one day in six on average. $40m has been spent on maintenance and clearing slips in that time. That makes it 15 times more expensive per vehicle/kilometre travelled than the average for the state highway network.
“Travellers, tourists, and the trucking industry need a reliable route, and the Saddle Road simply can’t handle the volume of heavy vehicles.
“Expert analysis of the options in 2012 shows that a new route through the Te Apiti wind farm, at a cost of $120m, would be the least expensive and produce the best returns on investment. The final decision on which route to build will be made by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
“The regions that depend on this connection deserve certainty. My commitment to them is that Labour will build a new, reliable road as soon as possible,” says Andrew Little.