Saturday, April 13, 2024

Hamilton eyes rapid transport future

Rapid bus lanes and cycling networks could be the future of transport in the Hamilton – Waikato area if a new business case gets Hamilton City Council’s tick of approval.

Council’s Strategic Growth Committee will this week consider recommendations, developed with iwi, local and central government partners, which look to drive radical transport change in the Hamilton – Waikato metro area, stretching from Taupiri in the north to Te Awamutu and Cambridge in the south.

The 30-year business case considers how to reduce deaths and serious injuries on local roads, deliver more transport choice, reduce carbon emissions and support more compact towns and cities.

Committee Chair, Councillor Dave Macpherson said a significant shift had been made in the past few years towards providing more transport choice and accessibility for all users.

“A clear shift has been made to focus our efforts on giving people more choice about how they get around our city – whether it be bike, e-scooter or bus. It’s good for our health, good for the environment and supports high-density living which we’re starting to see more of,” said Cr Macpherson.

“While it is positioned at a high-level, the business case could provide excellent strategic direction for our decision making as a city, and a metro region, over the next few years.”

Key recommendations include creating better transport access to developments like Peacocke and Ruakura and encouraging more housing around key transport corridors. It also recommends protecting land for future river crossings, rail, walking and cycling corridors, and stations or terminals almost immediately.

“Our committee will be considering its support of the recommendations and I certainly look forward to hearing the thoughts of our other partners in the coming weeks,” said Cr Macpherson.

Hamilton Mayor, Paula Southgate said she was pleased to see a focus on climate change reflected in the recommendations.

“It’s clear business as usual is not going to cut it. The decisions we make now will have a significant impact on future generations. A smarter and better public transport system, combined with safer cycleways and other options, will go a long way to helping our city reduce carbon emissions. And that means we will have to create opportunities and make the right long-term investments to make people less reliant on cars,” she said.

Future Proof implementation advisor, Peter Winder said the business case builds on work by the partners completed in 2020 which considered a scenario of 500,000 people living in the metro area in 100 years’ time, where they would live and how they would get around.

“We know which areas we want to grow over the next 100 years, but this business case will give us some more detail around how we can get people from their homes to their jobs and the other things they need,” he said.

“Transport is a key part of creating well-functioning communities – and that’s what we all want.”

Estimated costs for the entire programme are expected to be up to $6.5 billion over the next 20 to 30 years for necessary infrastructure and to operate bus and other transport services.

“These costs are not unexpected for this level of transformation,” said Mr Winder.

“Funding would be shared by Hamilton City Council, Waikato Regional Council and other Future Proof partners, as well as the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s National Land Transport Fund. Those undertaking both greenfield and brownfield development will also help to fund the programme through development contributions.

“We currently have high-level cost estimates. Further work is under way to firm up the costs and funding options. This work includes looking at other possible Government sources such as urban development or emission reduction-related funding.

“Transport already makes up a significant amount of council and government spending across the region and that is expected to continue. A lot of the funding required to deliver this programme is money councils would already be looking to spend on transport infrastructure and services. This plan will help guide that spend.”

The business case will be presented to Future Proof partners for approval in June.

Future Proof is a joint project set up to consider how the sub-region should develop into the future. The partnership includes Ngā Karu Atua o te Waka, Waikato-Tainui, Tainui Waka Alliance, Waikato Regional Council, Waipā District Council, Waikato District Council, Hamilton City Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, central government represented by the Ministers of Transport, Housing and Local Government, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and Waikato District Health Board.

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