Chief Executive Peter Guerin's 'Council Talk' column from this week's Daily Post.
Preparing for the future is an essential job for any local authority, and Rotorua District Council regards strategic planning as one of its most important functions.
A number of years ago, it became clear that we had little choice but to start planning a future re-route of part of State Highway 30A that currently bisects the CBD along the path of Amohau Street. For example, having increasing numbers of heavy logging trucks powering through the centre of the city was seen as unsustainable.
Detailed traffic forecasting revealed that changes were essential if we were to future-proof Rotorua from an ever-growing traffic count, increasing congestion, evolving commuter patterns, more commercial transportation needs and escalating road safety issues.
It became apparent that the existing route had the potential to leave the city in gridlock with all the associated effects this would have on our local economy and on the safety of our community.
The council was well aware that it would be a major and very costly exercise; but it became clear that such a change was vital for the future of our city.
Already the existing route is creating traffic problems for people trying to get around town as well as for those wanting to travel across the city.
And equally important, the lack of capacity on this part of our roading network means that a number of potential business developments can not proceed until changes are made to substantially increase the road’s capacity.
The council looked at a wide range of alternatives, consulted with NZTA and enlisted the advice of some of the country’s best traffic management experts before identifying the Victoria Street Arterial on the southern edge of the CBD as the most efficient and cost effective solution.
A major community consultation programme followed and a number of concerns were able to be satisfactorily addressed following submissions from affected parties.
Of major significance to the future of this project was a milestone decision by the Bay Of Plenty Regional Transport Committee to rank the Victoria Street Arterial as the region’s top priority local roading project. This showed that the committee clearly understood the project’s importance to not only Rotorua, but to the economic future of the whole region.
Rotorua District Council estimates that the project will cost in the vicinity of $47 million. But we expect under the government’s current funding programme that NZ Transport Agency will contribute $27 million, in line with their 57% funding subsidy formula.
Ultimately the Victoria Street Arterial will link up with the proposed Eastern Arterial Route providing a much needed remedy to ever-increasing traffic congestion problems between the city and the airport.
Planning for future progress is invariably costly. But failure to plan for the future comes at a much greater cost to a community – economically, environmentally and socially.
Providing strategic infrastructure that enables the economy to grow, and ensures the community can prosper, remains a key priority for our council.
RDC Chief Executive