The NZ Transport Agency and Hamilton based consultancy Bloxam Burnett and Olliver were the big winners at the 2015 New Zealand Planning Institute Awards presented in Auckland on Friday night.
Planning practices for the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway saw them jointly claim the Best Practice Award for District and Regional Planning, and the overall Nancy Northcroft Supreme Best Practice Award.
The Huntly section involves 15km of four lane expressway, 4million m3 of earthworks, an 80m cut through the Taupiri Range, over 100ha of forest, bush and wetland enhancement and permanent protection of a sacred lagoon and two pa.
Close collaboration and engagement with key affected parties throughout the development phase resulted in no resource consent hearings being required, and only a brief hearing to finalise designation conditions, with no appeals to the Environment Court.
The judges described the project as “demonstrating outstanding creativity and innovation in an example of best practice planning in an environmentally and culturally sensitive environment”.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Kaye Clark welcomed the accolades, saying the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway will make a sizable ecological contribution to the area.
“More than 100ha of forest and bush habitat enhancement, including landscape and restoration planting of riparian, forest areas and wetland have been planned as part of the project,” she says.
“The project team has also partnered with iwi to ensure the Huntly section recognises the rich cultural history of the area.
“A number of pou will be installed along the route and distinctive designs reflecting the awa (river) and native wildlife will be incorporated on three of the section’s bridges and the historic paa sites of Otaahau and Te Uapata will also be recognised.
Ms Clark says collaboration with key stakeholders such as Waikato-Tainui, the Department of Conservation, Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council, along with good planning, created such a positive outcome.
Managing director of Bloxam Burnett and Olliver, John Olliver, says; “Even with complex projects, by engaging with people early and including them in the design and development process you can achieve outcomes that are acceptable to everyone, and avoid the cost and time of major hearings.
“I particularly want to acknowledge the role of Waikato-Tainui and their working group representatives who contributed so much to the outcomes.”
The Waikato Expressway is one of seven Roads of National Significance (RoNS) identified by the government as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth.
The Huntly section is set to start taking shape in September.
In March, the Transport Agency board approved $1.08 billion to fund construction of the Hamilton and Longswamp sections, enabling completion of the Expressway.
The green light from the board means that all seven sections of the expressway will be built, under construction or out to tender by the end of 2015.