Maintaining safe, reliable road and rail freight connections is essential for the recovery of Te Tai-o-Poutini | West Coast after the region’s main economic driver, tourism, was severely impacted by COVID-19.
Tourism was the region’s fastest growing economic sector; however, global travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic have greatly affected the local economy.
While the region serves the domestic travel market and awaits the return of international visitors, it is reliant on there being good access to employment, education, training opportunities and essential services.
We’re continuing to work with local government and our industry partners to identify regional recovery opportunities where transport-related investment will provide economic benefits.
Investment in the region during the 2021–24 NLTP will be targeted at maintaining critical connections with the remainder of the South Island, improving preparedness on responding to extreme weather events, maintaining access to existing tourist locations and improving safety across the road and rail network.
The West Coast’s dispersed settlement, relative isolation to neighbouring regions, vulnerability to adverse weather events, and mountainous coastal terrain present significant challenges in maintaining access along the length of State Highway 6 (SH6) which forms a critical lifeline link between the region’s communities. The highway is prone to closures from slips, rock falls, flooding and crashes.
A large proportion of our investment on the West Coast this NLTP period – $142 million – will be spent on maintaining and operating the state highway and local road networks. This includes maintaining road condition, drainage and structures, and specific river and slope protection works.
It is planned to resurface 300 lane kilometres of local roads, put 80,000 cubic metres of metal on unsealed roads and renew 7,500 metres of drains.
Significant investment is also planned for the two Special Purpose Roads (Karamea and Jackson Bay Road) which will include bridge and culvert renewals and resurfacing work.
In addition, 21kms of rail track will be re-sleepered, 15kms of track re-railed and other civil and track works carried out to improve the resilience and reliability of the West Coast’s vital rail links.
We have a programme of work to improve freight connections on the West Coast which will enable larger trucks to access the region’s primary produce and get goods to market. It also helps to improve safety. This programme includes upgrading and replacing the region’s single-lane bridges of which there are about 50 on the state highway network.
During the 2018–21 NLTP, we replaced the single-lane wooden SH7 Ahaura Bridge and during this NLTP period we begin work to plan for the replacement of the Stoney Creek bridge.
We’re also improving safety on West Coast bridges with an ongoing programme of investment to upgrade guardrails to prevent run-off crashes which are more likely to result in deaths and serious injuries. Major guardrail safety improvements on the Taipo River Bridge (SH73) between Jacksons and Kumara, is one of the five single-lane bridges to benefit from the regional package of the NZ Upgrade Programme.
Through the 2021–24 Rail Network Investment Programme, five West Coast rail bridges, four of which on the critical Midland Line connecting the West Coast to the rest of the rail network, will be replaced and two others will be strengthened.
North of Westport, work will start this NLTP on protection works at the Ngakawau River bridge to protect the highway. This work will improve both the security and resilience of the SH67, a critical lifeline route for the local community and freight services. This work is funded through the regional package of the NZ Upgrade Programme.
Each West Coast district benefits from significant investment in maintenance, operations and renewals right across the network.
The West Coast roading network is particularly susceptible to climate change. The natural geographical constraints mean there are a lack of alternative routes and detours are often long.
We developed a Transport Resilience Framework to:
During this NLTP, we will implement the framework by investigating the best use of resilience investment along SH7 Lewis Pass and SH73 Arthur’s Pass to strengthen alternative links to Waitaha | Canterbury and the freight hubs at Christchurch International Airport and Lyttelton Port.
SH6, connecting to Nelson in the north and Ōtākou |Otago in the south, is prone to flooding and slips, particularly south of Hokitika where these is a limited network of local roads to provide reliable detour routes. During the next three years, we’ll look to improve our emergency response plans and investigate the most effective ways to provide real-time information for customers.
At Punakaiki, 4km of new shared cycling and walking path along SH67, linking with the new Dolomite Point Experience Centre, recognises the importance of the visitor economy to the West Coast.
At Franz Josef, we’re continuing to work with our partners to maintain access to the glacier and the town. A major flood in March 2019 caused significant damage to the glacier access road and flooding in the town. In the long-term there are ongoing risks and uncertainties relating to the future of the glacier, an increased flood risk with the Waiho/Waiau River, the rising riverbed because of sediment pattern changes and the town’s close proximity to the Alpine Faultline. We’re working to investigate the most sustainable way to provide access that aligns with the Franz Josef Future Plan.
On SH6, we plan to invest in the design, and start construction, on a number of safety improvements, including new signage and road markings, wider centre lines and installing safety barriers at high-risk locations along 60kms of the corridor.
A winding and challenging section of SH7 from Reefton to Maruia Springs, including Blacks Point, has been prioritised for a speed review.