SH29 the key to Tauranga’s immediate growth challenges

By ANNE TOLLEY, Tauranga Commission Chair

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Tauranga is a great place to live, which is one of the reasons it is New Zealand’s fastest-growing city. But as we all know, growth brings challenges – in our case, a housing shortage and affordability issues, traffic network congestion and high carbon emissions for a city of our size, which we will need to bring down.

Those challenges inevitably have an impact on business. Our shortage of affordable houses for renters and buyers makes it difficult for businesses to attract staff who are not already living in the city.

Congested roads not only affect our lifestyle, but also reduce business productivity and the ability to deliver timely services.

And of course, we have a responsibility to the planet, and a requirement to comply with the Government’s directive to reach carbon-zero status by 2050.

Currently, more than 60% of the city’s carbon emissions are from transport activities and most of that relates to road use.

Multiple long-term solutions are required to deal with these issues, but in the short- to medium-term, accelerated investment in SH29 improvements will certainly help meet our immediate challenges.

This would involve creating a grade-separated inter-regional highway connecting the productive base of the North Island to the Port of Tauranga, as well as a rapid transit corridor for vehicles, public transport and active transport modes (cycling and walking) from Tauriko through to the city centre and on to the Mount.

The why for this investment is simple – it would enable residential development in Tauriko West and along the Te Papa peninsula which would allow up to 25,000 homes to be built over the coming years, connecting to around 12,500 extra jobs and all of the city’s key facilities – hospital, supermarkets, shopping centres, high schools, the port, the CBD and Te Manawataki o Te Papa, the University of Waikato and on to Blake Park, Bay Oval and the Mount’s other attractions.

An efficient rapid transport route with enhanced public transport services would also help us to lower carbon emissions, vehicle kilometres travelled and reduce congestion and facilitate housing intensification withing our existing city footprint, which makes this a winning proposition all-round.

The Council and the Commission are working with Waka Kotahi, other Government agencies and Government ministers to facilitate this investment, but right now the SH29 upgrade we need is still too far down the priority list to offer the timely solutions we need.

Our regional local government partners are right behind a reprioritisation of infrastructure investment, but to encourage the all-of-government approach we need to get things moving, we also need national political commitment.

The business community could play a very helpful role in that, so when our political leaders drop by to drum up support in the lead-up to the October elections, tell them what the Western Bay of Plenty really needs – investment in an efficient SH29 connection, with all of the gains that will provide.

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Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley
Tauranga Commission Chair

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