This Saturday marks ‘Billboard Day’ – when politicians can erect their billboards for the 23 September election, which is nine weeks away. Between now and then, there will be a battle for the attention of the public, especially the media’s.
The big question is, while politicians pledge this, that, and the other thing, how can Warkworth’s issues remain relevant?
Nine weeks before the 2016 local body elections, NZTA and Auckland Transport announced the funding of the Matakana Link (http://bit.ly/2uNY5qh). Nine weeks from this general election, the NZTA has announced proposed improvements to the Dome Valley (http://bit.ly/2uEr0MI).
Is this a coincidence? We don’t think so.
Over the past decade, when the Hill Street intersection sticks up its ugly head in the news, the NZTA tries to bury it by announcing another ancillary project. Like a magician’s ploy, it’s a classic case of distraction. Unlike magic, however, the Hill Street intersection problem remains.
This election is showing how desperate politicians are to get attention. Simultaneously, they reveal how pork barrel this country is.
In a week where the Manawatu Gorge is closed indefinitely and many regions are isolated due to slips, metropolitan Member of Parliament Peter Dunne concocts an idea to build a $2b tunnel under Ngauranga Gorge after one minor slip diverted traffic for one day (http://bit.ly/2ufsMS7).
What this shows is how the media focus can be diverted and how skewed the justification for such ideas are towards minor support parties and metropolitan areas. Sure, Peter Dunne could make the tunnel a bottom line of any support agreement. Ngauranga Gorge might carry 70,508 vehicles a day whereas Manawatu Gorge might carry only 7,220. But, seriously, which road is in more dire need of a new route?
Remember, all the benefits of fixing Hill Street were reallocated to justify a $707m Puhoi to Warkworth Motorway and a Matakana Link, diverting only a fraction of the traffic whilst making Hill Street worse. It just goes to show how illogical the process has become.
It’s also shown how cynical the process has become.
Leading up to the 2015 Northland by-election, National announced the replacement of ten one-lane bridges. When Winston Peters won, the project missed the next two budget rounds (http://bit.ly/2j6nfL7). Late last year, NZTA announced consultation on two of the bridges (http://bit.ly/2ugmyD7). So far, Winston has been touring his electorate, taking photos of all the bridges that National promised to replace (http://bit.ly/2tLN6bQ).
An effective politician will exploit weaknesses. Winston was the Member of Parliament for Tauranga for 21 years and he’s reminding his former constituency of what he got done (http://bit.ly/2vGFkBj). He’s traveling the country, visiting the regions, and picking out neglected infrastructure. He turned up to Manawatu Gorge closure meetings to pledge action (http://bit.ly/2tHAQJt).
We are wondering, is Rodney even relevant? Are the issues in this electorate irrelevant to national media? What will it take to get Penlink built and the Hill Street intersection upgraded?
Is the real issue that Rodney isn’t a battleground electorate? Is National’s huge majority a hindrance rather than a benefit to its constituents? Or is Warkworth stuck in no man’s land between being a regional centre and being part of Auckland?
Mark Mitchell is part of a huge caucus where each electorate has its wish list. In the week that he tabled our petition in Parliament, the obstinate NZTA announced $2m so Auckland Transport can investigate and redesign the Hill Street Intersection.
The timing, the NZTA announcement, and Auckland Transport process are cynical. NZTA are sticking to their original timeline for rebuilding the intersection but wiping their hands of the project. In the meantime, Auckland Transport have come up with a protracted process that will fill in the time.
Billboards will appear dotted around the intersection this weekend. What will you be thinking when you’re stuck in traffic looking at them?
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