New report backs SH43 improvements

SH43’s importance is increasing and it’s become vital for the route to be fully sealed and have more spent on safety improvements and maintenance, a new investigation has concluded.

SH43 connects Stratford with Taumarunui.

SH43 connects Stratford with Taumarunui.

Traffic volumes are up but maintenance spending has declined, and the unsealed section is daunting for visitors and hinders efforts to boost tourism at both ends of the highway, says a report on the investigation carried out for the Taranaki Regional Council.

The investigation, by Abley Transportation Consultants, found:

  • It is essential for the remaining 12km unsealed section of SH43, through Tangarakau Gorge, to be sealed, and all at once. This would cost an estimated $8 million.
  • Safety improvements are also urgently needed, including better signage and road markings. A relatively small investment in safety could result in savings of $7 million in crash costs.
  • The NZ Transport Agency also needs to spend more on maintaining the route. Annual maintenance spending decreased from $1.2 million in 2010/2011 to $500,000 in 2015/2016.
  • Such improvements are vital if promising new tourism initiatives in Taranaki and Ruapehu District are to realise their full potential.
  • SH43 is also widely used as an alternative route during the regular closures of SH3 north of New Plymouth due to slips, flooding or accidents. This occurs despite the NZ Transport Agency not promoting it as an alternative.
  • Traffic volumes increased by nearly 13% between 2012 and 2015, despite the current condition of the highway. So improvements can only result in further volumes.
  • The NZ Transport Agency should consider upgrading the route from ‘Secondary’ to ‘Primary’ in its road network classification system.

“The message is clear: The highway in its current state is not adequate,” says Taranaki Regional Councillor Craig Williamson, who chairs the Regional Transport Committee.

“We’ve sent the findings of this investigation to the Government and told them that though this route may be called the Forgotten World Highway, it cannot remain forgotten by them. The Taranaki Region and Ruapehu District speak with one voice on this. It’s essential to take Taranaki forward.”

Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke says local communities have long been calling for improvements to the route. “The current state of the highway makes it a barrier to progress, rather than an asset,” he says. “There has been a recent history of lack of maintenance, and the unsealed portion is a major deterrent for motorists who travel the highway. It needs to be better and safer.”

Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron says that like Taranaki, his district is making a concerted effort to improve facilities and attractions for tourists. “The current state of SH43 is a major constraint,” he says. “This new report offers plenty of evidence.”

Taranaki’s Regional Transport Committee will consider including aspects of the report in the Regional Land Transport Plan, which is currently under review.

Read the report here: