The NZ Transport Agency says it welcomes a Ministerial decision to refer to a Board of Inquiry its application for designation and resource consents to construct the first section of the Ara Tūhono - Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance between Pūhoi and Warkworth.
The Transport Agency’s Regional Highways Manager, Tommy Parker, says the Ministerial decision is an important milestone for the project.
“The Transport Agency is pleased that the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation have recommended our application proceed to a Board of Inquiry. This is a significant step forward for a critical project that will help improve regional links between Auckland and Northland and connect with state highway upgrades in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty,” Mr Parker says.
The Transport Agency lodged its application with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) at the end of August. The application was reviewed by the EPA, which recommended the application should be considered a proposal of national significance, and be referred to a Board of Inquiry. The Ministers have now accepted this recommendation.
“The Board of Inquiry will sit early next year and provides a robust process that enables the Transport Agency to deliver the project as quickly as possible with the best value for money, subject to consents,” Mr Parker adds.
Mr Parker said the Board of Inquiry process provided an excellent opportunity for submitters supporting or opposing applications to have their submissions heard and considered by the Board.
“The Transport Agency is pleased that the evidence it will be providing with respect to its applications for the project will be thoroughly tested. The EPA and Board of Inquiry process will ensure that the Transport Agency constructs projects that will best benefit New Zealand,” he said.
The Pūhoi to Warkworth section of the RoNS starts at the Johnstone’s Hill tunnels at the north end of the Northern Gateway Toll Road on State Highway 1. The new highway will be four-laned and 18.5 kilometres long. Construction is anticipated to start between 2015-2019 and be completed between 2020-2025.
“This is a complex project and we have completed a significant amount of detailed investigation to ensure a thorough understanding of the effects, impacts and opportunities the project will have,” Mr Parker says.
The Transport Agency is committed to keeping the community informed about the project. Information open days will be held at:
“We want to continue to work closely and transparently with the community and other stakeholders to ensure that they are fully informed about the project as it is described in our application.”
Further information about the EPA submission process and the opportunity to make your submission online is available at www.epa.govt.nz/resource-management/puhoi(external link)
A special planning alliance of planners, engineers and lawyers assisted the Transport Agency prepare its application to the EPA, and Mr Parker says it makes good sense to have specialists working together in a team rather than as individual companies.
“The combined experience and expertise of the Further North Alliance reflects our commitment to innovation and to the ambitious timetable we have set for this project.”
The Transport Agency and iwi and hapū from north of Auckland collaborated to adopt a dual name for the project that combines English and Māori. Ara Tūhono means a connecting pathway, and it meets the new highway’s objectives to make journeys for people and freight easier, safer and more reliable.
While the Transport Agency prepares for the Board of Inquiry, Mr Parker says investigations continue on the best route for the second stage of the project, from Warkworth and Wellsford.