Building resilience into the state highway network to ensure the region’s economy continues to flourish is our focus for investment in the West Coast’s transport system. Tourism is now the fastest growing industry for the region, just behind dairy in terms of economic contribution. Both rely on safe and reliable roads.
SH6 runs the length of the region and forms a critical lifeline between the region’s communities, as well as providing access to key tourism attractions such as the glaciers, Punakaiki and various walking and cycling trails. However, the highway is prone to closures from slips, rock falls, flooding and crashes. These closures not only disrupt travel but also have a significant impact on the economy.
There are no viable alternative routes when SH6 is closed; and where there are detours, these are lengthy and often on unsealed local roads. Almost half the local roads on the West Coast are unsealed.
With the West Coast’s relative isolation, the result of its few connections to neighbouring regions and its challenging geographical environment, a resilient network is vital to support economic and social opportunities in the region.
Safe, reliable routes are required to the north, south and east of the West Coast as visitors often travel around the South Island and come into the region from each of three access points.
Resilience work is planned for the highway network on the West Coast during this three-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) period to help reduce the number of closures and minimise disruption from unplanned events, in particular weather-related incidents. On SH6, SH7 and SH73, work is focused on helping prevent slips and rock falls at several known locations.
On SH7, a key freight route from the north, it is proposed to replace the single-lane wooden Ahaura Bridge with a new two-lane bridge and realign the highway.
Upgrading this bridge is part of an overall programme of work to improve freight connections to enable trucks to access the region’s primary produce and get goods to market in the most cost-effective and efficient way.
With the Department of Conservation and Buller District Council, the Transport Agency is developing a plan to improve parking and pedestrian access to the iconic pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki, and with the Grey District Council, Development West Coast and MBIE to improve the transport link between Blackball township and the start of the Paparoa Track.
In this NLTP period, more than $100 million will be spent on maintenance and renewals along West Coast highways to improve both resilience and safety to support economic development.
Much of the work is focused on improving roads and roadsides at high-risk locations throughout the region by managing skid resistance, improving delineation and signage, and constructing slow-vehicle passing bays.
Work will also focus on progressing the region’s speed management plan to improve safety for both residents and visiting drivers.
Support will continue for regional walking and cycling trails where there are opportunities to grow tourism and support the visitor economy.
This includes the Croesus Trail, 10kms of which forms part of the 55km track through the Paparoa mountain range, linking the villages of Blackball and Punakaiki. The Paparoa Track has been given Great Walk status, making it one of the premier outdoor experiences in New Zealand. It is the first new track to be added to the Great Walk network since it was setup in 1993 and the first to be built for both walkers and mountain bikers.
The former Waiho River bailey bridge was destroyed during flooding on 26 March 2019; a new bailey bridge has since been installed. The Transport Agency investment in all work relating to this storm will total about $9.5 million. It is important that the Transport Agency remains agile and able to respond to such damage but also that resilience work is planned to minimise such disruption in future.
Throughout the next three years, the Transport Agency will continue to work with local government, other government agencies, and communities such as Franz Josef to improve the resilience of the State Highway.
Other examples of our response to storm events includes work at Dolomite Point, Punakaiki, to fix significant damage resulting from ex-Cyclone Fehi. This was completed at a cost of about $7.8 million. Work continues to repair storm damage at 17 Mile Bluff near Barrytown, Bruce Bay and Gates of Haast.
Through the PGF, $11.85 million is being invested to improve tourism on the West Coast. Access roads in the Oparara Arches Basin and the Paparoa Great Walk are being upgraded, as well as safety improvements at Punakaiki.
Funding is also being provided to investigate a passenger rail service between Hokitika and Westport and $40 million is being invested into upgrading the TranzAlpine, which runs from Christchurch to Greymouth.
|Forecast total investment||$180 million||$195 million|
|Forecast maintenance and operations||$126 million||$145 million|
|Forecast public transport investment||$0.5 million||$0.5 million|
|Regional network improvements||$53 million||$45 million|
|Total Provincial Growth Fund||$52 million|