Second Ashburton bridge tops regional transport priority projects

Published: 28 November 2023

A second bridge over the Ashburton River is the top transport priority for Canterbury and Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown is pleased the project has the backing of mayors in the region.

The proposed bridge is also on a draft list of national priorities and a detailed business case sits with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

The existing State Highway 1 bridge was damaged in the floods of May 2021 and Mayor Brown said since then it had been a major focus for him.

“The bridge was repaired, but it remains vulnerable when there is a flood in the river so it’s been top of my mind that we need to futureproof the town. Having another urban link over the river is also vital for the whole of the South Island, as it will be a significant benefit that will help shape the future of our town and Canterbury as a whole.”

In a media release today, Canterbury councils and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency proposed almost doubling the investment in the region’s land transport system over the next 10 years to increase maintenance, manage risk from natural hazards, reduce emissions, enhance safety, and accelerate key transport projects across the region.

The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee – made up of representatives from each city and district council, Canterbury Regional Council and Waka Kotahi – has approved a draft Regional Land Transport Plan, which will be shared with the community for formal consultation in early 2024.

The draft plan outlines the need for a $10.8 billion investment over the next decade to meet the proposed objectives.

Canterbury Regional Transport Committee Chair Peter Scott said the proposed step-up in funding, which would kick in from July 2024, aims to address deferred maintenance work and support a robust transport system that can stand up to ever-increasing use, as well as more frequent and severe exposure to extreme weather or natural hazards.

“This draft plan outlines how we’d like to invest in future transport solutions for Canterbury, while also providing ongoing stewardship to our existing transport network.

“A lot depends on the incoming government and whether they’ll change the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport, which currently includes provisions for a second Ashburton bridge and the Woodend Bypass.

“To deliver this plan we will need central government to come to the party to fund the gap we need, which will likely be around $4.6 billion,” Mr Scott said.

Funding for transport programmes and projects across New Zealand mostly comes from council funding, direct Crown funding, and the National Land Transport Fund, which is made up of road user charges and fuel taxes.

Key transport projects for Canterbury

Road maintenance, operations and renewals work across the region accounts for at least 40% of the land transport investment proposed for Canterbury over the next 10 years.

Other key transport projects in the draft plan are ranked according to their regional significance. These rankings reflect their contribution to the vision and priorities for Canterbury’s transport system. They generate significant benefits and help shape the future of the region.

The top three priori-ty projects proposed are:

  1. A second Ashburton bridge
  2. Greater Christchurch public transport upgrades, as outlined in the Public Transport Futures business case
  3. The Northern Link, including the Woodend State Highway 1 bypass.

As well as the shift needed to support a growing population and economy in Canterbury, the plan acknowledges the need to support the transition to reduce emissions from vehicles and adapt to the changing climate.

The objectives and priorities for Canterbury’s transport system have been based on feedback gathered by councils across the region, and early input from key stakeholders, land transport users and suppliers. Everyone will have an opportunity to have their say on how projects have been prioritised in early 2024, when formal consultation gets underway.

About the Canterbury Regional Transport Committee

The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee comprises representatives from the region's councils as well as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. It meets at least four times a year with a primary role to develop and implement the Regional Land Transport Plan.

The Regional Land Transport Plan is a legislative document that sets out the current state of the region's transport network, the challenges it faces, the priorities for future investment and the policies it will operate by. It covers a 10-year period and is updated every three years.

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