The future of the proposed four-lane Napier to Hastings Expressway is in turmoil, MP for Tukituki Lawrence Yule says.
“The previous National Government had committed to upgrading the Napier to Hastings Expressway as part of the next generation of Roads of National Significance, but it is clear now that the new Government doesn’t see the importance of the road.
“The upgrade of the Napier to Hastings Expressway to four lanes would have seen improved safety and travel times, our regions better connected and boosted regional economic growth.
“Instead the Government has only put in a wire barrier down the middle of the two lane road. This has done nothing to ease congestion at peak times, the biggest issue on this road, which would have been eliminated by the planned four lanes.
“Hawke’s Bay is booming. We want to see the Government commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs.
“The thousands of people who travel between Hastings and Napier every day show how integrated the cities are with each other, and the wider region. At the same time freight volumes at Napier Port are expected to grow by 50 per cent by 2026 and at the same time great efforts are being made to take heavy traffic off Marine Parade.
“The proposed upgrade would have built on this.
“The future of the Napier to Hastings Expressway is another example of the Government stripping funding away from regional New Zealand, and feeding it back to Auckland, specifically for Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s pet tram project.
“Regional New Zealand deserves better. National had a carefully balanced plan which prioritised our regions and supported our cities. It wouldn’t have left Hawke’s Bay in the limbo it currently is in.”
Revelations that a multitude of issues have been found with the off-shore manufacturing of modular prison units shows a New Zealand based consortium that tendered using Hawke’s Bay companies should have been chosen for the work, MP for Tukutuki Lawrence Yule says.
“The original $60m tender was won by Decmil in 2017 and signed off by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to provide 366 additional prisoner beds. Since then, it has come to light that the Australian based company which outsources its manufacturing to China has had significant quality issues.
“Despite that, in this year’s Budget Mr Davis extended the contract by $125m for a further 600 beds without one cell landing in New Zealand and without putting the contract back out to tender. Given the project was being extended to such a large extent the contract should have been revaluated and New Zealand based companies should have had a fair shot at the work.
“Mr Davis has confirmed there were no expressions of interest called for, yet Hawke’s Bay companies Patton Engineering and Sharp Edge Engineering could have done the work and Hawke’s Bay missed out on the opportunity to create 120 jobs.
“It is unfathomable to me that this Government could extend a contract by $125m to an Australian based company using a Chinese manufacturer without even giving local companies a chance to put forward a tender.
“We now also know the first 378 cells are nearly a year late, the costs for these have blown out from $60m to $84.5m and Kelvin Davis refuses to give a breakdown of why. All we know is that the units won’t be finished on time and they might not be secure enough.
“If Mr Davis had chosen a local company, he would have had the units ready on time, they would have been made to a much higher standard, fully compliant with the NZ Building Standard 50 year life and Kiwis would have had jobs.
“I am disappointed at this process, the lack of support for New Zealand companies and workers and the complete falsehood that the present Government is supporting the regions.”
The Government needs to listen to the horticulture industry and urgently expand the RSE scheme to bring much-needed pickers into regions right across New Zealand, National’s spokesperson for Horticulture, Lawrence Yule says.
“Media reports that Kiwifruit growers are requesting a change to immigration settings to cope with an unprecedented labour shortage should not be ignored,” Mr Yule says.
“This is a multi-billion dollar industry crying out for some practical Government support so that it can future-proof itself to meet its 10 year growth plan. That plan includes major expansions to planted areas for apples, grapes and kiwifruit.
“The Ardern-Peters government campaigned on slashing immigration and that’s already biting the regions where it hurts.
“The Kiwifruit industry alone needs 8000 pickers to pick and pack its $2 billion crop each season. Recently I was in Hawkes Bay with National Party leader Simon Bridges where local apple growers said they’re short of 2000 pickers.
“The previous Government worked closely with the horticulture sector in the Hawkes Bay to better understand its growth prospects and labour requirements. It was also successful in a number of initiatives to ensure New Zealanders were at the front of the queue for the growing numbers of jobs.
“The RSE scheme introduced in 2007 currently allows 11,100 temporary workers into New Zealand for seasonal work like fruit picking. The industry says it urgently needs that cap extended by at least another 2000.
“The message from the sector is clear – more labour is required than can be sourced domestically and the Government needs to ensure, as the previous Government did, that fruit is not left to rot on the ground.
“The Coalition government needs to realise that tourists and back-packers are not a stable supply of labour – we have an industry that is crying out for a sustainable form of migration and an extension of the RSE scheme is the most viable option.
“That the industry is carrying out its own survey to provide the Government with information about its current problems speaks volumes about the need.
“I support Horticulture New Zealand’s call that the Government needs to look at immigration on a regional basis rather than dictating that overall numbers be slashed,” Mr Yule says.
MP for Tukituki Lawrence Yule has today launched a petition aimed at saving the project that would ensure the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway which is at risk of not going ahead.
“The previous National Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects including the Napier to Hastings Expressway. These roads would have improved safety and travel times, better connected our regions and boosted regional economic growth,” Mr Yule says.
"However, Transport Minister Phil Twyford now says that a number of these projects are under review and in question time confirmed a safety review was being done on the Napier to Hastings Expressway.
“The biggest safety issue on this road is the congestion at peak times which would have been eliminated by the planned four laning.
“I am going to do everything I can to ensure that the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway is completed as promised by the previous Government - it is one of the few routes that has all the land available and is ready for construction.
“Hawke’s Bay is booming and we want the Government to commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs.
“The Napier Port also recently announced that freight volumes are expected to grow by 50 per cent to 2026 at the same time great efforts are being made to take heavy traffic off Marine Parade.
“To ensure the voice of the region is heard I have today launched a petition so the public can show the Government how important the project is. I will be taking the online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.”
The petition can be found here.