The National government’s decision to fast-track the replacement of Queenstown’s decrepit one-lane Kawarau Falls Bridge has sparked a political row.
The opposition Labour Party transport spokesman argues the $25 million two-lane bridge and 13 other regional roading projects announced in June are an election year lolly scramble.
Phil Twyford claims the government has previously starved the regions of funding for projects like the bridge because of its concentration on urban motorway projects.
“We think it makes sense to build it, it’s a single-lane 1926 bridge that is not only an important tourism route but it also connects a couple of significant residential developments to Queenstown so we think it’s long overdue and should be built.
“If Labour had been the government for the last six years, it almost certainly would have been built already.”
Local National Party candidate Todd Barclay responds: “You can’t move a lot of vehicles across a hypothetical bridge.
“Labour didn’t build it in nine years and they wouldn’t have built it if they had six more.”
Barclay asks how Labour can promise to build the bridge if it wins the election since it’s likely to be dependent on the Green Party which has said it opposes the regional roading package.
“The only party committed to building this bridge in the next three years is National.
“A Labour/Green government won’t deliver.”
Barclay says the $212m roading package also comes from the proceeds of asset sales which Labour and the Greens opposed.
Twyford says while his personal view is the new bridge should be built, “I’m not going to promise you that we’re going to build the bridge in six months or whenever.
“These decisions should be made by officials on the basis of the best economic analysis and what the regions say is their priority.
“I don’t believe that politicians should be walking around the country dishing out lollies as political favours.
“That’s not the way we should be spending our $4 billion-a-year transport budget.”