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Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was in Thames last week to inspect the condition of the district’s roads. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

PM: Local roads leave ‘a lot to be desired’

The Prime Minister has said the problems Thames-Coromandel is facing with its roading network fall into the category of being prioritised when it comes time to make decisions about investment.
Speaking to The Profile following his visit to the storm-battered Kopu-Hikuai and Thames Coast roads last week, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said while the area was “an absolutely stunning part of the world”, it was clear it was also a part of the country where the roading infrastructure left a lot to be desired.
“We’re going to have to do quite extensive work, I think, to get the roading network up to scratch,” he said.
The Prime Minister was shown around the rohe [area] by Thames-Coromandel Mayor Len Salt, and while no announcements were made regarding investment into the district’s roads, Mr Hipkins said there was “going to need to be some prioritisation”.
“Where communities have been cut off, or where there has been significant damage to roads that has a major impact on communities, [they] are going to need to be prioritised, and the Coromandel clearly has a number of areas that fall into that category,” he said.
When pressed if that meant Thames-Coromandel residents could ensure prioritisation when it came time for the government to make decisions on investment, Mr Hipkins said there was “no question”.
“There’s no question given the level of destruction that’s currently occurring on the Coromandel Peninsula, that the transport network there has to be a priority for us,” he said.
“There’s a number of different levels we have to approach with that; clearly we’ve got to look at the immediate issues, and try to get connectivity restored as much as we can.”
Long-term resilience comes after that, he said.
The Prime Minister also believed Kiwis would be happy to contribute financially to the “very large investment needed”.
“The money we’ve been spending as a country on our roading network has been steadily increasing. The issue is, we have had a bit of inconsistency in terms of where the investment [has been] made,” he said.
“Some of the new roads that have been built, in some cases, have been built at the expense of maintaining existing roads. We actually need to do both of those things.
“So, I think we need to have a good, honest conversation as a country about the fact that we’re going to have to put more money into this.
“I think New Zealanders, looking at the extent of the damage we’ve experienced over the last couple of months, are likely to be very supportive of increasing our investment in roading resilience.”