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Ashburton's second bridge tops Canterbury tranport priority list

Ashburton's second bridge tops Canterbury tranport priority list
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown inspecting the SH1 Ashburton/Hakatere River Bridge after the recent flooding in July. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Ashburton's second bridge is the top priority project in a $10.8 billion Canterbury transport system investment.

The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee - made up of representatives from each city and district councils, ECan, and Waka Kotahi - have approved a draft regional land transport plan which will go out for public consultation early next year. 

Road maintenance, operations, and renewals work across the region accounts for around 40% of the investment proposed across Canterbury over the next 10 years.  

Other key transport projects in the draft plan are ranked according to their regional significance, with Ashburton’s second bridge top of the list.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said having the support of Canterbury mayors was another step forward for the bridge.

The idea of a second bridge has been around for over a decade, but the existing bridge getting damaged and closed for days after the floods of May 2021 highlighted the urgent need for an alternative crossing, Brown said.

"Having another urban link over the river is also vital for the whole of the South Island, as it will be a significant benefit that will help shape the future of our town and Canterbury as a whole.”

Next on the priority list are the Greater Christchurch public transport upgrades, and the Northern Link, including the Woodend SH1 bypass.  

The draft plan proposes to almost double the investment in the region’s land transport system, outlining the need for a $10.8 billion investment over the next decade to increase maintenance, manage risk from natural hazards, reduce emissions, enhance safety, and accelerate key transport projects across the region.

Committee chairperson Peter Scott said the proposed step-up in funding, which kicks in from July 2024, aims to address deferred maintenance work and support a transport system that can stand up to increasing use and more frequent and severe weather and natural hazards.

“A lot depends on the incoming government and whether they’ll change the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport, which currently includes provisions for a second Ashburton bridge and the Woodend Bypass. 

“To deliver this plan we will need central government to come to the party to fund the gap we need, which will likely be around $4.6 billion.”

Another transport option that will be discussed is the potential, and feasibility, of introducing public transport in Ashburton.

Brown said it has been noted in the plan.

Funding for transport programmes and projects across New Zealand mostly comes from council funding, direct Crown funding, and the National Land Transport Fund, which is made up of road user charges and fuel taxes.  

By Jonathan Leask