Use the port gold to fix highways

Larry Baldock wants to spend some regional cash. Photo: Supplied.

Using the wealth of the Port of Tauranga shareholding to jump start urgently needed work on SH2 and the Tauranga Northern Link, is being suggested by Tauranga City Councillor Larry Baldock.

In his submission today on the proposed Bay of Plenty Land Transport Strategy Larry says using the port’s wealth is a way of delivering urgently needed safety and efficiency improvements to roads in the Western Bay of Plenty.

“Relying on central government funding from traditional revenue sources will limit the ability to catch up on the road infrastructure deficit created over the last 15 years,” says Larry.

The continued success of the Port of Tauranga is dependent on efficient freight movement to and from the port – so it must be important to the port company’s majority shareholder that sufficient investment is provided to future proof the port’s efficiency and profitability, says Larry.

The majority shareholder is the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which owns 54 per cent of the port company.

The Port of Tauranga market capitalisation in 2005 was $663m with the regional council’s share of that being $359m. Dividends of $26mil were paid.

Current value is $3.3b with the Regional Council share $1.75b. Estimated share dividends for 17/18 year for the Regional Council/Quayside could be $62m.

“I believe it is entirely reasonable to consider a contribution of at least $300-400bil over ten years that could be released by the Regional Council,” says Larry. “If we can approach central government with a local contribution of half a Billion dollars, perhaps we will be taken more seriously.”

Larry says the regional council needs to seriously consider two actions to advance the development of the transport infrastructure in the Western Bay of Plenty that will support improved public transport options, private commuter travel, and efficient freight movements to the port.

To protect its stake in the Port of Tauranga the regional council should be willing to use either its balance sheet to borrow funds to contribute to the region’s transport funding, or sell shares to inject funds directly into transport investment.

“We must unlock the public wealth in our region,” says Larry.

“The Port of Auckland provides a stark example of how congestion has reduced its profitability, and viability as a major import and export hub for the nation.”

Secondly, the regional council needs to strongly support for the advocacy called for in the SmartGrowth submission for a widening of options in the toolbox for transport funding.

Whether through a further traditional tolling scheme or more 21st century congestion pricing and road pricing mechanisms, the Regional Land Transport Plan should call on the central government to engage with the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region in the development of a funding strategy involving all possible funding mechanisms to provide for the urgent projects this region needs, says Larry.

He wants the TNL project confirmed and supports priorities on planned safety improvements with Omokoroa to Te Puna and Waihi to Omokoroa safety corridor, including the Katikati bypass.

He also supports the urgent need to deliver safety and efficiently improvements to SH29 Tauriko West network connections and the western corridor growth management.

“My primary concern is the lack of clarity, focus, and urgency around the Tauranga urban area network and the completion of the strategic roading network which was developed in 1997 between the then Tauranga District Council now Tauranga city Council, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Transit NZ, now NZTA,” says Larry.

The SmartGrowth transport project team provided an update in May 2004.

He also wants to revive the ring road project, and SH29A from the toll road intersection, to Te Maunga, also Hewletts Road and Takitimu Drive to The Lakes to provide a four lane, grade separated highway around the city, designed to ensure all traffic could travel at 80km/h.

“Unfortunately since the abandoning of the tolling of the harbour link project in 2005 and the prioritising of the Roads of National Significance policy of the previous government, the urgent need to complete the ring road has been side lined,” says Larry.

“In my opinion refocussing of our current transport planning on the completion of the ring road is vital to the social and economic health of Tauranga City, now the 5th largest urban centre in NZ.

“This will of course require a considerable escalation in the transport investment in the Tauranga Urban Area.”


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