A design of what Rocks Rd could look like, as presented to the council on Monday be Nelsut. Photo: Nelsut.

Rocks Rd upgrade ‘a priority’ says NZTA

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Nelson is one step closer to having a “world-class” waterfront after council agreed to push ahead with prioritising improvements for walkers and cyclists on Rocks Rd.

In June, NZTA announced it would progress a business case to investigate the Southern Link and Rocks Rd walkway/cycleway. However, on Monday the Regional Transport Committee approved a proposal to separate out the Rocks Rd plan, which would effectively prioritise it over any move to potentially build a new arterial route through Nelson.

For decades the “Southern Link” has loomed in Nelson’s transport plans. The route would see a new highway built along the railway reserve and down into Victory to the port.

Its proponents say it will transform the city’s traffic woes. Its opponents say that it will result in unneeded disruptions for local communities. In 2004, the Environment Court struck down a plan to build the road saying not enough had been done to investigate other options.

NZTA representative Jim Harland said that any new road would not be built until “early 2030s” and the agency recognised something needed to be done in the short term to address challenges for cyclists and walkers on Rocks Rd.

“We recognise we need to look to see what, if anything, we can do to make that safer in the interim while there will still be heavy vehicles and quite a few cars going down there.”

“We need to look at what we can do to make things safer.”

The committee voted to recommend the scope that will allow the commencement of the detailed business case. The decision still has to go to full council for approval on 13 December.

The NZTA says that Nelson is on the cusp of being classified as a “high growth” region with the population expected to grow by almost 10 per cent over the next 10 years.

They also state that tourism is very important to the region and that the council wants to deliver a “world class” waterfront for the city along Rocks Rd.

However, there was a challenge in that the purpose of the city’s main arterial routes – Rocks Rd and Waimea Rd are not clearly defined.

“Continued population, business and industry growth combined with a strong tourism industry is putting the transport network in Nelson and Richmond under pressure.”

In the public forum, Peter Olorenshaw from Nelsust urged the committee to accept the scope of the investigation, saying Rocks Rd is “an iconic Nelson project we don’t want to skimp on”.

Peter presented a model of what Rocks Rd could potentially be, featuring a 4m wide shared path, a 2m wide carparking/tree area from the Boat Shed to Tahuna, a generous cycling lane, two 3m traffic lanes and refuges every 100m to make it easy to cross the road.

“We need a 4m wide shared path, not a skimped out 3m wide one … I really encourage you to support this well and do it earlier rather than later.”

Councillor Matt Lawrey said the Rocks Rd single stage business case was a “breakthrough” for Nelson.

“This is a great step forward, we’re one step closer to having a waterfront for everyone. I know there are a lot of hoops to jump through … but this is a great day for Nelson.”

Mayor Rachel Reese said it was a complex project.

“This project has, I think, been portrayed as something quite different from what it is. In order to deliver the network we’re all wanting, we have to go thought this process.”