Shane Jones appears to have all but given up on supporting the Northland region, National Party Transport Spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross and Northland MP Matt King say.
“The self-proclaimed provincial champion, Shane Jones, has today dismissed the prospect of building the proposed highway between Whangarei to Wellsford, a commitment made by the previous National Government,” Mr Ross says.
“Mr Jones has also labelled vital roading infrastructure a mere pipe dream and claimed that such projects will never see the light of day.
“It beggars belief that the Government claims that there is simply no way to fund transport projects outside of Auckland but is then funding a tram project in Auckland that will cost more than half of the total cost of our ten nationwide roading projects.
“National’s entire next generation Roads of National Significance package of ten major roading projects across New Zealand was planned at a cost of $10 billion.
“It could have been funded from the $32 billion infrastructure package committed to in Budget 2017 or through rolling over the pre-existing funding for current Roads of National Significance projects.”
“This is simply a matter of priorities. This vital project would have extended the Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance which would have reduced the numbers of serious injuries and fatalities on the road and boosted the economic prospects of the Northland region,” says Mr King.
“We knew that the Minister of Transport was happy to scrap major investment in Northland in favour of building a tram in Auckland but it is disappointing to see that Mr Jones has now joined in the plans to gut regional roads.
“This is a clear example of the impact the Government’s $5 billion cut to state highway funding is having on the Northland region.
“The National Party remains committed to ensuring regional New Zealand receives the kind of investment that will ensure their futures as well and I remain committed to advocating for this vital infrastructure for Northland.”
National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.
“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.
“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need.
“RHAANZ provides information, advocacy and solutions to issues that affect the health and wellbeing of rural communities. It also provides access to vital support for rural mental health including suicide prevention workshops and clinical champions in mental health.
“The Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark’s reluctance to commit to RHAANZ shows that they have no understanding of the challenges involved in providing health care in rural communities.”
National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King says that it is greatly concerning that the RHAANZ may be forced to begin the wind-down process within the next fortnight.
“We understand the funding bid was put to the Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark last November and to date RHAANZ have heard nothing,” Mr King says.
“RHAANZ provides support to around 600,000 New Zealanders and we encourage the Ministers to confirm that they will fund RHAANZ urgently.
“At the moment we are unsure what will happen to the RHAANZ’s 16 regional mental health clinical champions and medical director who help rural communities to access professional mental health services, as well as the RHAANZ’s general function to identify and resource solutions for rural health.
“The Health Minister is also refusing to confirm his support of a School of Rural Medicine, which a National-led Government had committed to establish within three years.
“This coalition Government claims to be the champion of regional and rural New Zealand but delaying any commitment to RHAANZ does not support this claim.”
National MPs Dr Shane Reti and Matt King have today launched a campaign to ensure the Auckland to Whangarei four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.
“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei,” Dr Reti says.
“Work has already started on the Puhoi to Warkworth section, however, Transport Minister Phil Twyford has indicated a number of projects such as the remaining four lanes from Warkworth to Whangarei are under review.
“The Northland Regional Action Plan was developed by key stakeholders including regional and district councils and through it, Northlanders determined that a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei would provide the biggest boost to the Northland economy in recent times.”
“The Northland region benefits from a sub-tropical climate, fertile land, spectacular scenery and coastline. The region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway One,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland providing a safer, more reliable and resilient State Highway One for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north unlocking the potential and allowing business and people to thrive.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear by signing our petition.
“We will be taking this online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.”
The petition can be found here.