Epic news for the Tararua District

A $14.6 million investment from the Government into a long-awaited upgrade of Route 52 is epic news for our district.

“This is a fantastic result for Tararua District Council staff who put so much work and effort into this application. Everyone is buzzing.” Tararua District Mayor, Tracey Collis, said.

“It’s a great relief to the community and council, knowing this won’t be a patch job, rather a well-designed and future-proofed build which suits the geo-tech of the area.

“This is a significant amount of money for our district and council staff have worked tirelessly for the recovery of this district and this allocation has meant so much for them. It’s fantastic news and there was a very vibrant spirit amongst council and the community on hearing of the funding.”

Tararua District Council’s chief executive, Blair King, has clarified that the project will encompass the area from Weber to the Central Hawke’s Bay boundary, a distance of approximately 40 kilometres.

“While this allocation is $14.6 million, the Government has also given us $500,000 for roadside tree removal in the same section, plus most of the $400,000 for the rail hub investigation to analyse the impact on Route 52. The net value of all this investment is $15.5m,” he said.

“And a lot of the credit and our thanks needs to go to Catriona McKay of the Provincial Development Unit for her work in getting this funding through. She was the key driver in helping Council receive the Provincial Growth Fund grants for $500,000 for Route 52/Weber Road dangerous tree removal, the $400,000 Route 52/Dannevirke log hub analysis and now the $14.6m for strengthening Route 52 between CHB Boundary and Weber.”

Mayor Collis also acknowledged local MP’s for championing this application.

King said the $14.6m allocation is “pretty much” a year’s worth of Tararua’s roading programme going into the 40 kilometres of Route 52.

“It’s very significant,” he said. “Council paid $80,000 to Deloittes to understand the economic impact of this work and it will bring a significant improvement in GDP for our district.”

King said this section of road is one residents have been most concerned about and Trudi Riddell, whose husband’s family have lived in the area for more than 100 years, said she couldn’t be happier about the funding news.

“I’m stoked. I’ve lived here for six years and travel that road every day. I’m from Gisborne so know about bad roads, but I’ve had kids in tears not wanting to go on the bus because they’re scared, so this is awesome news.”

Mayor Collis said council has previously spent a considerable amount of money on emergency and remedial work on the route.

“We are lucky it’s been a relatively dry winter this year,” she said.

Route 52, a former State Highway, provides an important link between Central Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District for locals, travellers, tourists and transport vehicles.

“This project will improve safety for all traffic. It will also build investment confidence in increased land production and tourism, and underpin sustainable business and job growth in the rural communities the road runs alongside,” Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said.

As well as its designation as a Heartland Ride as part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network, Route 52 is increasingly important as a tourist and freight route.

“The long, winding and narrow road is quickly deteriorating as a result of increasing traffic. The formation and geology of the road also make it susceptible to damage such as slips and dropouts during bad weather,” the Minister said. "While improving the resilience of the road, the upgrades are also expected to improve the attractiveness and smoothness for tourist traffic and cyclists.”

Funding for the project is coming from the $3 billion set aside for infrastructure in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

It is estimated this infrastructure project will create 45 jobs and Mayor Collis said this was important in the recovery of our district.

“We know how money goes around in our community and this will be welcome,” she said.

Minister Shane Jones said given the small rating base in our region, it was important that Central Government stepped in to help the Tararua District Council get these critical upgrades underway.

“This piece of roading is crucial for this region and this project will provide an economic boost at a time when it is needed, as well as putting people in jobs,” he said.