By Scott Simpson, National Party MP for Coromandel.
Coromandel still in limbo
At long last NZTA have announcement they will build a bridge to fix the dropout on SH25A.
The decision has been a long time coming. It’s been three and half months since the road was closed. Having a clear plan for repairing the road is a good thing even if late. But it comes with a drawback; it won’t be operational until next year. I still don’t get a sense from NZTA, the current government or our local Council, that they understand the implications of the road not being open before Christmas. Their 2024 timeframe will have a massive impact on our region. It’s our communities who will bear the brunt of government complacency. It’s local businesses who will have to make difficult staffing decisions, take on more debt or close their doors. It's our kids who will continue to have their education disrupted. It's the elderly and most vulnerable who will have to travel much farther to get to medical appointments. Worst of all, for many New Zealanders and international visitors the closed road sends a subliminal message that the whole Coromandel Peninsula is closed. Questions need to be levelled at Government and the New Zealand Transport Agency about the time taken in the aftermath of the road’s fallout. If they had shown more urgency over the last few months, maybe the Peninsula wouldn’t be facing a fourth consecutive summer with constraints and restrictions. I well remember that after the Kaikoura earthquake and the closure of SH1, the then National government set a clear timeline for getting it reopened. Once the reopening date was set as a target it meant NZTA, contractors and everyone else involve in the work knew what the schedule was and managed their own work to fit the timetable. Most importantly, having a defined reopening scheduled meant local people, businesses, and service providers could plan with confidence around that timeframe. It gave everyone certainty.
We have nothing of that kind of certainty here. I'm fearful of what delays in fixing SH25A will mean for the people of the Coromandel. It has taken far too long to get to this point but it’s the total lack of certainty and urgency that is most damaging.
The announcement to reopen SH25A should have given us all the assurance that Wellington and NZTA understood the needs of our area. Unfortunately, we remain in the dark about when exactly we can expect to resume regular trading and travel.
There is more financial support being made available for businesses and I hope that the Coromandel gets its fair share. So far we haven’t. There is growing angst about how those funds have been distributed, why some businesses received support and others didn’t, to say nothing of the lack of transparency about the decision-making process. A better job needs to be done in distributing the next round of funding support.
I’ll keep pushing NZTA, the Government and our council for a faster reopening of SH25A and for the urgent repairs still needed on other Peninsula roads as we head into winter. All efforts need to be directed to getting our communities fully reconnected as soon as possible.