Government funded project receives praise for “impressive” approach

Improved road infrastructure has the capability to make a positive difference to people’s everyday lives, and this is exactly what the Huarahi Tūhono – Weber to Wimbledon – the Route 52 road upgrade project aims to achieve. This “Shovel-Ready Project” is meant to have a positive impact on community wellbeing, unlock long-term social benefits, improve road safety, and help lift the economy of Tararua district. 

A Government investment of $14.6 million, administered by  Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit (Kānoa – REDIU), has allowed Tararua District Council to significantly expand its roading programme on the 26-kilometre section of road on Route 52. Project Manager, Andrew Desmond says the additional funding allows for comprehensive road maintenance and renewal works to be undertaken, as well as improvements to safely and resilience of the road. 

“Besides the infrastructure upgrades, it also provides more work opportunities for locals. We have recruited local people to support us with Project Management and Engineering. Creating employment for local people, and increasing opportunities for businesses are some examples of the social outcomes which we are seeking to achieve,” says Andrew Desmond. 

In February 2021, expressions of interest were sought from locals for several positions in the project. Trudy Riddell is one of the locals who successfully applied and became Assistant Project Manager. For over five years she campaigned for road improvements. According to her the project is a win-win situation in many aspects. 

“This upgrade will enable people to travel safer, with less wear and tear on their vehicles and it will take the worry away for children on the school bus, especially when we have a storm,” Trudy Riddell says. 

Further benefits are the improved access to work and education as well as bringing services and amenities within an easier reach of people’s homes. District gains are also expected from the road upgrade as Dannevirke businesses have missed out on trade, with some residents avoiding the affected road and going to Waipukurau instead. 

The road construction work is being managed by the Tararua Alliance, Council’s partnership with Downer NZ, and delivered in conjunction with existing and new Supply Partners. It will include upgrades to the road’s bridges, increasing road width, improving alignment, and strengthening the pavement. With Tararua’s entire roading budget being between $13 and $14 million, Government’s $14.6 million support has given a substantial boost to the district. 

Kānoa – REDIU’s Principal Regional Advisor for Manawatū-Whanganui, Catriona McKay, says a “comprehensive road safety upgrade and resilience works would have been beyond the capacity of a relatively small council like Tararua.” 

By having on the ground conversations with residents, road users, businesses and local people working on the project, Council has been able to gauge what the community’s main concerns are and how to address them. Catriona McKay says she is impressed by the way Council has approached it. 

“Right from the beginning Council has recognized that this is not just a roading project. It is about connecting the community, safety, and unlocking economic potential of this road. Council has carefully considered how the community can be engaged while understanding the project from a technical and financial perspective,” Catriona McKay says.

The Tararua Alliance currently has three operational crews on the ground with six staff each, as well as a Project Manager, Site Manager, Assistant Project Manager and three engineering staff. An information session to learn about the project has been held for contractors and companies, many of whom are keen to become supply partners of the project. As the scope of the project has expanded, the Tararua Alliance has re-deployed work crews to the Huarahi Tūhono – Weber to Wimbledon project to enable an immediate start to works. 

Project Manager Andrew Desmond says “This has and will continue to open up more work opportunities across Tararua for other contractors. As planning and design advances, local contractors will replace some of the Tararua Alliance workforce.” The finish date for the project is April 2024.

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