Part 1 appeared on page 5 of Issue 1057, By Pauline Stewart.
Good news for all travellers north of Whitianga on SH25, or is it?
A clause in a memo dated 11 June 2023 and titled, Subject: SH25 – Flooding issue near Tohetea Stream Bridge, Wharekaho included the following Clause 5 as part of a section titled, Considerations following a meeting held with other Waka Kotahi staff.
“Waka Kotahi understands that the existing Tohetea Stream Bridge will need to be lifted and replaced with a 2-lane bridge. Given the risk of sea inundation or backflow hindering water discharge during storm surges, it will be necessary to involve Iwi and Coastal Management and conduct a first-principle catchment discharge analysis before upgrading the bridge. Waka Kotahi has included this improvement in the Resilience applications and waiting for the funding confirmation.”
This is good news. However, the journey is only beginning and this decision that two lane bridges are necessary over the existing one-lane bridges has been made before. The funding confirmation awaited by Waka Kotahi has nothing to do with the cost of a bridge but is in relation to a ‘resilience application’ and the conducting of a ‘first principle catchment discharge analysis.’
Why hasn’t anything happened before?
If we take a brief look into the history of submissions, scoping reports, public forum minutes that have filled the files of NZTA for this small bridge at Wharakaho (Simpson’s beach) and other sections of State Highway 25 on the Coromandel Peninsula plus the amount of correspondence and meetings, and actions by Residents and Ratepayers Associations, we could be forgiven for erring on the side of cynicism and not celebrating.
This memo quoted above is essentially an ‘in-house’ memo, but it needs to be held up and not forgotten - it needs to be kept in front of the residents of the Coromandel.
Some history of one segment of the SH25 will serve to remind us that there is a need for the public to ensure that decisions and projects are followed through. Accountability isn’t so obvious - when it comes to the outcomes of roading project budgets spent.
Tairua Hill: In December 1996 a public Information report was distributes around the eastern side of the Coromandel peninsula. This publication was part of a long and thorough process of consultation on what to do about the section of the Highway called Tairua Hill. The report outlines all the existing problems that had been expressed and summarises a process whereby a Draft Scoping report had been prepared in 1995 and that was followed by a period of public comment and submission on the nine alignment options in the report. In that time two more options were added as a result of the response from the community bringing eleven to the table. In this published report, NZTA stated, “three have been chosen. All three options will be two-laned and provide access to the twin Kauris Scenic reserve, Sailors grave Road and Pumpkin Hill Road.”
Then the heading CONSULTATION is highlighted – ‘Consultation with affected parties was to now occur and 13 are listed.
What is interesting is that this public report presented the three emotions in map form and all three options are the result of surveys. These are not hasty sketches but presentations as the result of engineer, surveyors and consultants all tasked with preparing three options that were being seriously considered. The report states:
“Transit New Zealand is currently investigating options for realigning State Highway 25at “Tairua Hill” immediately north of. Tairua township ……. measures to reduce any potential adverse environmental effects which may be caused by the construction and operation of a new road.
…..and three have been chosen for further analysis at the Scheme Assessment stage.”
Perhaps these three options still apply. Have they been forgotten? Can they be resurrected as surely not too much has changed except the problems would have increased with more traffic, more trucks.
The work was obviously detailed, expensive and NZTA (Waka Kotahi) used the expertise of consultants, and surveyors to produce this. The general public trusts this process but what lacks foundation is outcomes as a result of all this work.
We have huge roading projects ahead – and most cannot ever occur without huge funding form central government. In r event edition of NZ Herald, Brett O’Riley, CEO of the EMA (the EMA is an advertising sponsor of the Herald’s Infrastructure Report) wrote a leading article as part of the Herald’s Infrastructure reporting. This is a highlighted quote from that report -
“Does rebuilding the same road up the Coromandel Coast from Thames to Coromandel and beyond make sense when the ranges are going to keep falling on that road? Can we create a coastal Highway with pillars in the seabed and move away from those hills or an alternative route inland and could they be consented and built at what cost?”
Next issue - 06more about Wharekaho and storm water.
Caption: This is a map of the three surveyed options for Tairua Hill presented in 1996. This topography map was also presented as part of the widely circulated public presentation. It demonstrates the careful and costly work done by NZTA.