Tauranga Eastern Link tolling approved

  • Steven Joyce

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has confirmed that the Tauranga Eastern Link will be tolled, allowing construction to begin on the road in early 2011 - seven years earlier than would otherwise be the case.

The Tauranga Eastern Link - a 23km four lane highway from Te Maunga to Paengaroa that bypasses Te Puke is one of the government's seven Roads of National Significance.

"The Tauranga Eastern Link was identified as a Road of National Significance as it will be a key driver of productivity and growth in the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga - one of New Zealand's fastest growing areas," says Mr Joyce.

"The new road will boost productivity, improve access to the Port of Tauranga and greatly enhance safety.

"It's estimated that the new road will shave up to 24 minutes off travel time for a return journey between Paengaroa and Te Maunga," says Mr Joyce.

"As well as shortening the journey for motorists and reducing transport costs for business,  greater efficiencies and access to the Port of Tauranga will help increase the volume of exports and in turn the growth of the region.

"It will also bring significant safety gains on State highway 2 between Tauranga and Paengaroa, which is ranked second worst in the country per kilometre for fatal and serious injury crashes by the KiwiRap programme."

The road is estimated to cost up to $567 million in 2015 dollars. While most of the money will come from the National Land Transport Fund, $137 million will be raised through borrowing and repaid through tolling.

"Cabinet has agreed to loan the NZ Transport Agency the remaining funding required to allow construction to begin in 2011. This loan will be repaid through tolling the road," says Mr Joyce.

Comprehensive community consultation on tolling to bring forward construction resulted in significant community support for the idea - 92 percent of respondents said they conditionally or unconditionally supported advancing the project through tolling during the 2009 public consultation. Cabinet took this high level of agreement into account as they considered the proposal.

Tolls are proposed to be no more than $2 per trip for cars and motorcycles and no more than $5 for heavy vehicles. It is estimated that all borrowing will be repaid within a toll operating period of 35 years, after which tolls will be removed.

The existing State highway 2 route through Te Puke will remain as a free alternative route once the Tauranga Eastern Link is completed.

For more information visit: www.nzta.govt.nz