Transport Minister Simon Bridges says a significant milestone has been reached in the effort to restore the coastal road and rail corridor north of Kaikoura. Work commenced this week at Ohau Point, the site of one of the largest of slips which came down in the November 14 earthquake.
“The slip at Ohau Point is one of the biggest and most complex of the 10 major slips north of Kaikoura,” Mr Bridges says.
“Helicopter sluicing crews and specialist abseilers have been working long hours for several weeks to clear loose material from the site.
“We now have machinery at both sides of the slip to start work clearing the estimated 110,000 cubic metres of rock and debris as quickly and safely as possible,” Mr Bridges says.
A remote-controlled excavator will work on the north side of the slip because it is too unstable to allow workers access safely.
“People will begin to see some very visible progress in coming weeks. Work is now happening on all sections from Blue Duck Valley Road to north of Waipapa Bay,” Mr Bridges says.
Construction access tracks have now been built around all of the slips to Ohau Point. Work will soon begin rebuilding sections of the highway and railway line damaged by the earthquake.
Work is on track to fully restore the road and rail network by the end of this year.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges has welcomed Akamai’s latest State of the Internet Report which shows that average connection speeds in New Zealand have increased by 38 per cent since 2015.
The Report shows that in the fourth quarter of 2016, the average connection speed had increased to 12.9 Megabits per second (Mbps) – a significant leap from the previous year.
It also shows that almost half of New Zealanders have an internet connection that provides speeds of more than 10 Mbps – representing a 75 per cent increase from 2015. Further, a quarter of New Zealanders now have an internet connection that provides speeds in excess of 15 Mbps – a 134 per cent increase from the previous year.
“These figures demonstrate that Kiwis are increasingly reaping the benefits of faster, better internet, stimulated by the Government’s investment in the Ultra-Fast Broadband programme and the Rural Broadband Initiative,” Mr Bridges says.
“Improved broadband access and faster internet delivers huge opportunities for homes, schools and businesses right across New Zealand. It’s great to see we’re making real progress in terms of uptake and connection speeds on the world stage.
“For example, the Report found that mobile broadband users in New Zealand enjoy average speeds of around 12 Mbps. This is the fourth fastest in the Asia Pacific region and puts New Zealand alongside other global internet leaders such as Japan and South Korea.”
Akamai’s latest Report comes just a few weeks out from the due date for tenders for the Government’s extension of the Rural Broadband Initiative and coverage of mobile black spots under the Mobile Black Spot Fund, which will further improve access to fast broadband.
The Government’s $150 million investment in these initiatives will deliver high speed broadband to more rural communities and cellular mobile coverage to key stretches of state highways and tourism locations that do not already have coverage.
Ninety per cent of New Zealanders now have access to 4G cellular mobile services – two years earlier than anticipated, Communications Minister Simon Bridges announced today.
The Minister thanked telecommunications companies Vodafone and Spark for their efforts in quickly rolling out their 4G networks.
“In 2013 the Government set an objective that 90 per cent of the population would have access to 4G cellular mobile services by 2019. Thanks to the work of Spark and Vodafone, we’ve reached our target well ahead of schedule,” Mr Bridges says.
“This is a fantastic achievement that will help meet growing consumer demand for mobile data, and is essential for improving connectivity right across New Zealand.”
4G cellular mobile services are capable of speeds more than ten times faster than 3G mobile data networks.
“The Government is committed to delivering greater mobile coverage and network capacity. Currently more than 95 per cent of the New Zealand population has access to 3G. 4G is a better service and our 90 per cent requirement ensures that many rural people have access to the same level of services as people in urban areas,” Mr Bridges says.
“As part of the Government’s 2013 objective, Vodafone and Spark were required to build new towers to provide new coverage each year for five years. They’re well on track to meet this deadline – creating even better coverage and capacity for rural communities.”
New Zealand will benefit from a number of new air services agreements that will allow greater connectivity between New Zealand and the rest of the world, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
Cabinet has recently approved the signing of four new air services agreements with Kenya, Botswana, the Dominican Republic and Guyana and an amended agreement with Italy.
“These agreements will further enhance New Zealand’s international air connectivity between Africa and the Americas, bringing both trade and tourism benefits.
“As an island nation, New Zealand relies heavily on its international air links. We’ll continue to build on these connections,” Mr Bridges says.
The new agreements were negotiated at the International Civil Aviation Negotiation Conference, held in December 2016. The annual conference provides an opportunity for officials from various States to meet in one location, and negotiate multiple agreements over five days.
“Other successful negotiations to expand and enhance air services opportunities were conducted with Belize, Nicaragua, and Spain,” Mr Bridges says.
“Italian airline Alitalia has already made use of the new arrangements, adding Christchurch and Queenstown to its code-share network.
“New Zealand’s approach to liberalising air services has allowed for an open, competitive market, facilitating increased air traffic, lower air fares and stronger international trade links.
“I expect that further new air services opportunities will be announced during the course of this year,” Mr Bridges says.
International visitor arrivals set a new record in 2016 with 3.5 million for the year. This figure was up 12 percent on 2015.
New Zealand now has 61 air service agreements with other countries and territories.
New Zealand has signed an air services agreement with Colombia, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today.
The agreement provides opportunities for code-sharing between each nation’s airlines. Under the new arrangements, New Zealand and Colombian airlines may operate up to 14 passenger services per week, with no limits on the number of cargo services.
"Strengthening our air links with South America has been a priority since we created new air services opportunities with Argentina in December 2014, and Air New Zealand made its first direct flight to Buenos Aires in December 2015,” Mr Bridges says.
”This signing means New Zealand now has air services agreements with Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Worldwide, New Zealand has air services agreements with 61 countries and territories.
“New Zealand is well placed as a stop-over point between South America and Asia. Building air links with Colombia–South America’s fourth largest economy–broadens opportunities for people to explore New Zealand before continuing their travel elsewhere.
“New Zealand has a friendly and growing relationship with Colombia. I look forward to the benefits including tourism and trade that this agreement offers for both countries,” Mr Bridges says.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges has welcomed today’s announcement by the NZ Transport Agency to include a bypass of the Katikati town centre in the State Highway 2 Waihi to Tauranga programme.
Following the Government’s announcement of the $520 million Waihi to Tauranga programme in April last year, the Transport Agency has undertaken further investigations to develop detailed solutions along the corridor. An assessment of the Katikati town centre concluded that a bypass should be added to the programme.
“This is a significant transport investment for the wider Bay of Plenty region. I’m pleased that the particular concerns of the Katikati community are being taken on board as we work to improve safety and increase economic growth in the region,” Mr Bridges says.
“While the Transport Agency will need to undertake further work to finalise the details, they are committed to removing state highway traffic from the town centre to keep people safe and improve access to Katikati.
“The investment being made through this programme will transform State Highway 2 between Tauranga and Waihi, including significant safety improvements which will reduce fatal and serious injury crashes on the route, while at the same time reducing congestion and supporting strong growth along the route.
This will make a noticeable difference for motorists and ease freight movement,” Mr Bridges says.
Entries open today for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Business Scholarships, which offer New Zealand’s managers and executives the opportunity to improve their skills at the world’s best business schools.
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges says the scholarships are designed for managers and executives of companies involved in exporting, who are looking to expand their expertise through international study.
“We want New Zealand’s business leaders to have an opportunity to learn from some of the best overseas business schools and institutions,” Mr Bridges says.
“The aim of the scholarships is to make it easier to access these institutions, in turn increasing business leaders’ knowledge and improving the international competitiveness of New Zealand businesses.
“The scholarships also support New Zealand business people to develop networks and teach them to overcome the challenges our distance from overseas markets can pose.”
The Prime Minister’s Business Scholarships cover up to half of the course-related costs of attending an international learning institution.
“Previous recipients have enrolled at prestigious international institutions such as Harvard, Wharton and Columbia Business Schools, Stanford University, and the London School of Economics,” Mr Bridges says.
“This is a great opportunity for business leaders and senior managers involved in exporting to study overseas, improve their knowledge and then bring those valuable skills back to New Zealand.”
Applications for the scholarships close at noon on 28 April 2017.
More information can be found at www.mbie.govt.nz/about/our-work/scholarships/prime-ministers-business-scholarships
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith today announced that a tender has been awarded to Tonkin and Taylor to assess options for managing flood and earthquake hazards in Franz Josef.
“The Franz Josef area is a significant domestic and international tourist destination. This funding will assist the community and local businesses so they can make the best decisions for the town’s long-term development,” Mr Bridges says.
“The West Coast region has experienced 13 per cent growth in visitor spend over the year to January 2017. It is critical that the township protects its livelihood in the long term and continues to keep the region’s residents and visitors safe through effective hazard management.”
“Franz Josef is situated on an active fault line and adjacent to the Waiho River which is prone to flooding,” Dr Smith says.
“This investment recognises that State Highway 6 and Franz Josef play an important role in the regional and national economy. A GNS Science report commissioned by the West Coast Regional Council reviewed the area’s natural hazards and recommended that a risk management strategy be developed, including a thorough analysis of the options. The Government is supporting this next stage of work by Tonkin and Taylor.”
The work is supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Programme and involves the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; the Ministry for the Environment; the Department of Conservation; the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management; and the NZ Transport Agency.
The tender process was led by the West Coast Regional Council. The value of the tender is approximately $200,000.
The work will be completed by the end of July 2017. Once the options have been fully assessed, the relevant agencies and the community will discuss next steps.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says work is ramping up on a $60 million investment programme to upgrade the alternate state highway route between Picton and Christchurch while the reconstruction of State Highway 1 through Kaikoura is underway.
”The Government’s investment in the alternate route includes a range of road improvements to make the route safer and more resilient,” Mr Bridges says.
“Several sections of the route have been widened and 36 kilometres of the route has been resealed or repaired to help the road cope with the increase in traffic, with a further 22 kilometres to be resealed before winter.
“Three new bailey bridges have also been installed alongside permanent one-way bridges at Upper Buller and Homestead Creek west of St Arnaud and Speargrass Creek allowing traffic to flow safely in both directions.” Mr Bridges says.
Speeds have been reduced in high risk areas, with a strong Police presence on the route to help manage driver behaviour and speeds.
“Traffic numbers on the route have increased by more than four times since the Kaikoura earthquake in November. The Government is focussed on making the route as safe and easy to use as possible,” Mr Bridges says.
Mr Bridges says on top of the improvements already made to the route, the NZ Transport Agency is now focussing on preparing the Lewis Pass route to safely cope with higher volumes of traffic this winter.
“While work is continuing at pace to restore State Highway 1 through Kaikoura between Picton and Christchurch, it’s vital we ensure that people can travel safely on the alternate route through Murchison and the Lewis Pass.”
Other measures to improve safety along the route include:A short range cell site is being installed at Boyle River in April to improve mobile phone coverage. Traffic signals have been installed on the one-lane Maruia Bridge to ensure travellers in both directions can cross safely. Six radars measuring traffic volume and speed have been installed along the route. The radars also differentiate between vehicle sizes and can determine how many cars or larger vehicles are travelling at any given time.
Webcams have been installed in the above areas along with Waipara and Blenheim. The images are used on social media to provide travel updates.
State Highway 1 along the Kaikoura Coast is expected to be open by the end of 2017. For more information go to: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/kaikoura-earthquake-response/
Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced that the NZ Transport Agency is working to ensure significant improvements to a section of State Highway 1 between Whangarei and Port Marsden Highway are completed as quickly as possible, with construction planned to start by 2019.
Mr Bridges says 22km of state highway will be upgraded to four lanes, with the section between Oakleigh and Port Marsden Highway expected to be completed within 3 to 5 years, followed by an upgrade between Whangarei and Oakleigh, to be finished in 5 to 7 years. Timeframes are subject to investigations, consenting and purchases of the necessary property.
“The Government and the NZ Transport Agency recognise the importance of securing the safety and resilience of this key road corridor for the future prosperity of the Northland,” Mr Bridges says.
“Upgrading this section of highway to four lanes and separating traffic will significantly reduce the high number of fatal and serious injury crashes in the area, many of which involve drivers crossing the centre line and colliding with oncoming traffic. It will also provide a more reliable and resilient connection to the port.
“More than 3 million tonnes of freight is exported from Northport each year and improving the regions freight connections to key export markets will be a game changer for the wider Northland economy,” Mr Bridges says.
The improvements will also help support growth south of Whangarei where there are significant opportunities for industrial development and housing.
The Whangarei to Port Marsden Highway upgrade is expected to cost an estimated $400 to $500 million and is part of the wider corridor between Auckland and Whangarei.
“Ultimately we’re planning a significant upgrade of the highway all the way from Whangarei to Auckland which will include the completion of the Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance which will make journeys along this entire corridor safer and more efficient,” Mr Bridges says.
The Transport Agency will work with Iwi, local communities and key stakeholders as the project moves through the planning and construction phase.