Bridges are back on the menu for the National Party in Northland, but not the infamous 10 bridges of the 2015 by-election.
Instead MP Matt King is pledging that a National government, if elected, would start work on replacing the one-lane bridges at Kāeo and Rangiahua in its first term of office.
King made the promise during a public meeting at the Kerikeri Sports Complex on Monday, accompanied by the party’s deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee.
He acknowledged that planning was already under way for a new two-lane bridge at Kāeo, but said that was only because National had earlier made it an election pledge.
The current government had no plans to replace the one-lane Rangiahua Bridge, between Ōkaihau and Mangamuka, although it was a chokepoint on State Highway 1.
Funding for both would come from the $31 billion National had earmarked for transport over 10 years.
In 2015, during the Northland by-election, then Transport Minister Simon Bridges pledged to replace 10 one-way bridges in the region at a cost of $69 million. The pledge was widely ridiculed when it became apparent that one of the bridges slated for replacement was not a bridge at all, but a narrow section of road between two kauri trees in Waipoua Forest. Some of the other bridges on SH14 were real but had little traffic.
King, however, said the 10 bridges controversy overlooked the fact that the three most critical one-way bridges, two at Matakohe and one at Taipā, had since been replaced.
Some of the west coast bridges in the 10 bridges plan did not carry enough traffic to justify replacement, but upgrading Rangiahua was ”a no-brainer.”
The one-lane Tirohanga Bridge, on SH11, just east of Kawakawa, would likely became a chokepoint in future, and would also need replacing eventually. It was much smaller than the other bridges, however, so would cost considerably less.