Tauranga’s Transport Schmozzle

Tauranga’s Transport Schmozzle

Greetings from Greater Tauranga. We are a newly formed group that aim to have an active voice in transport and land use planning for our city.

This first blog is an overview of the web of agencies, plans and agendas that govern our transport planning and in our view make it nigh on impossible for the bold and integrated planning required to  avoid the future that Auckland is now trying to untangle itself from.

There is so much going on in Tauranga City – with NZ’s highest rate of car dependency (97%!), some very large fringe suburban development being planned, and some very poorly designed/justified NZTA projects about to be built (the current one being the $120M, 1.5km, Bayfair to Baypark -B2B project – but that’s for a later post), which run directly through major parts of the city (Mount Maunganui).

The Tauranga City Council (TCC), BOP Regional Council (BOPRC), Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC) and NZTA are beginning to do some good thinking about what future public and active transport options should look like, but in our view are generally setting the bar too low – given that now is the time to plan boldly and hopefully avoid Auckland-like transport woes. This is all not helped by a really confusing bunch of inter-relating plans from all four agencies, which make things near-impossible to understand. So this post tries to explain these plans.

[Incidentally, there is yet another organisation called ‘Smartgrowth’ which aims to provide a forum, and unified view of land-use/transport for the region, however that has been largely ineffective when it comes to transport, as the various parties seem to do whatever they want].

Below is a diagram which tries to show the various plans as we currently understand them.

First up is the all-important Regional Land Transport Plan. The RLTP establishes the investment basis and direction for the next 30 years. It contains all the relevant district/city council transport projects, and then gets submitted to NZTA and the government for approval and funding. NZTA funds a significant percentage of the projects (typically close to 50%) within the RLTP. Importantly, the RLTP must reflect the current Government Policy Statement (GPS) on transport, which is currently being reviewed, so as you can imagine, things are very much up in the air.

The current due date for submissions on this is around February 2018, and the document is due to be finalised in April. However that time frame looks like it will have to be delayed, to incorporate the new GPS, which will be released by the Minister of Transport before Christmas. Whenever it goes out for consultation, it is vital that people submit on the contents of this plan. Greater Tauranga will be creating a pro-forma template to assist people in making submissions that support a multi-modal, transport system.

Below this regional plan sit the transport components of both the TCC and WBOPDC Long Term Plans (and those of the other BOP Councils not included here). These plans forecast for the next 10 years, with funding of planned projects for the next 3 years – including roads, bus-lanes, cycleways, etc. Any projects over $1M get included within the RLTP. Note these plans do not include, for example, the operation of the bus services themselves, which is funded by the Regional Council (see below), or projects on state highways, which are the responsibility of NZTA.

The TCC Long Term Plan includes a well-though-out Cycle Action Plan, that has incorporated community input from a variety of local cycle advocacy groups. TCC are also working on a Tauranga Parking Strategy, which will be a critical component. The WBOPDC Plan includes their Western Bay District Cycle Strategy.

The BOP Public Transport Plan is another key document. BOPRC fund the buses (along with NZTA) and plan all the bus routes for the region. The interesting thing here is that local councils, such as TCC, must construct any bus lanes and bus stops etc. to support the bus networks. The Public Transport Plan sets the direction for public transport in the Bay of Plenty for the next 10 years, and again it must comply with the government policy statement on transport, which will give much more emphasis to public transport in NZ’s larger cities.

Finally (almost) is the Tauranga Transport Programme. This document is a 30 year joint plan by NZTA, TCC, BOPRC, WBOPDC and SmartGrowth that aims to decide the key strategic transport priorities for the central part of Tauranga City. Projects identified here as being required over the next decade will go into the City Council’s Long Term Plans, while longer-term projects will shape the direction of future transport planning.

Those are the main plans. However there are also the Western BOP Public Transport Blueprint for Tauranga and Western Bay bus services, a number of Network Operating Plans, as well as NZTA projects such as B2B, SH2 Omokoroa to Waihi, and the Tauranga Northern Link (with Katikati bypass).

The upshot of all of this is that it is extremely confusing to understand who does what, and we imagine very difficult for those involved to navigate the system. Equally important, it is very hard for the public to understand how to engage and when.

The most important document in our view is the RLTP, as this is the plan that is submitted for government funding of all the key projects and the various council’s transport plans. Whatever gets into the councils’ long-term plans and the RLTP will set the platform for the development of our city. There are growing calls for a much bolder and visionary approach to public transport and active transport modes, as we all know more roads are not the solution.

How to get this message through to the 4 parties involved (5 including Smartgrowth) is no easy task, and delivering a joined-up work plan currently seems impossible. Perhaps a dedicated Tauranga Transport agency is worth considering? Although, again this may have the downside of separating the land-use decisions from transport which may just perpetuate the problems we currently have.

It’s a real mess. What do you think?

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