The NZ Transport Agency says the project has reached a major milestone with the release of the panel of commissioners' recommendation report on the road designation, issued on behalf of Palmerston North City, Tararua District and Manawatu District Councils on 24 May 2019. The panel recommended the project should proceed, subject to conditions. The recommendation report has been published on the Palmerston North City Council website https://www.pncc.govt.nz/get-involved/have-your-say/te-ahu-a-tūranga-manawatū-tararua-highway/.
The NZTA has considered the panel’s recommendations and has by and large accepted all the proposed conditions. In particular, the panel agreed with NZTA’s proposal to include a sealed shared path for pedestrians and cyclists that is separated from the carriageway as part of the project, and a $1 million fund to create additional recreational paths that connect to the project.
The panel has also largely agreed with the proposed approach to managing effects on AgResearch’s field trial at Ballantrae Station. However, NZTA say they have adjusted a panel proposed condition that would require the road to be aligned to avoid an area of the field trial known as Big Hill, as this is not practicably possible. Instead, this condition will require effects on this area to be minimised. NZTA will also establish a fund for the benefit of AgResearch for ongoing research at the trial site or elsewhere.
The final decision and conditions are now available on NZTA’s website (https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/sh3-manawatu/nzta-nor-decision.pdf).
Councils are required to notify the decision within 15 working days of receipt from the NZTA, and any appeal on the decision needs to be filed with the Environment Court within 15 working days after that notification.
The NZTA says good progress is being made with planning of enabling works, which are required before the main construction of the new road can begin. Essentially, this work is about giving NZTA good access to the proposed transport corridor.
“We are working closely with Horizons Regional Council and aim to lodge the first round of applications for regional consents for these works with them in the next month or so. We will be working with landowners, iwi and councils as we progress the design of the enabling works, which we expect to get underway in the summer,” the NZTA update said.
“We are currently evaluating the two Alliance tenders for the design, consenting and construction of the project and are on target to make an announcement on a preferred Alliance partner in early July. Soon after, we will be holding public information sessions and we will let you know details of these in due course.”