Published: 1 September 2005
Rodney District Council commissioners have reinforced Transit NZ’s position that highways must be able to cope with new traffic before large developments proceed.
The complicated patch of State Highway 1 through Warkworth hasn’t been able to cope with normal weekend traffic for 4 years, and abnormal traffic for many years before that. The message is that Northland must become economically successful despite the failure of the national road operator to improve access â€“ and if Northland achieves that success, then it will be time to fix the road.
The outcome of the commissioners’ decision is that Perrendale Holdings Ltd (Neil Barr) can’t develop a 25,000mÂ² bulk retail area at Warkworth even though it’s in an area designated future urban in the council plan. The road must be fixed first, though Transit has said it’s not on the priority list.
Commissioners say highway congestion only reason to stop “reasonably necessary” development
Independent hearing commissioners Harry Bhana & Adrienne Young-Cooper produced their decision on 25 August and the council released it today. They heard submissions in March & June on proposed rezoning for the 17.3ha off Woodcocks Rd west of State Highway 1, done primarily through plan change 92.
The property is currently zoned general rural in the 12-year-old operative district plan but most of it’s zoned future urban in the council’s 2000 plan, which is still in the proposed category. The 1997 Warkworth structure plan made the property future urban, but a September 2004 review put a commercial zoning on the bulk retail component & residential zoning on the adjoining retirement village component.
The retirement village by specialist developer & operator Summerset Holdings Ltd (John O’Sullivan; chief executive Norah Barlow, based in Paraparaumu) can proceed but the bulk retail can’t.
The irony is that the commissioners saw the proposed developments as, “in principle, reasonably necessary to enable the Northern Rodney community to have access to goods & services, and purpose-built retirement housing. We are of the opinion that the plan modifications incorporate appropriate methods to ensure that any effects on the Warkworth Town Centre would be mitigated by the staging of development and restrictions on small shops and that the location of the site is generally suitable.”
Determination says solutions could be found
The commissioners were even satisfied that solutions could be found for the congested highway intersection with Woodcocks Rd, a principal sticking point for Transit. But until the work was done, they said:
“Notwithstanding all of these considerations, however, the very significant levels of traffic that would be generated by the large-format retail development would have serious adverse effects on State Highway 1, particularly at the intersection of State Highway 1 with Hill St. There does not appear to be any satisfactory way of remedying or mitigating these effects in the foreseeable future, which leads us to the conclusion that adverse traffic effects should be avoided by not allowing the development to proceed.
“It is regrettable that the existing level of service at this critical intersection is already poor, with congestion & queues causing a high degree of inconvenience & delay to motorists to the point that additional traffic generation at the level associated with large-format retail activity would not be tolerable.
No plans exist to fix it
“It is even more regrettable that no plans currently exist for significant improvements to the major constriction on development of Warkworth created by the inadequacy of the state highway system & its connections with the surrounding road network. This roading system is plainly unable to meet the travel requirements of the Northern Rodney region & the demands of through traffic.
“Those travel demands & the existing traffic problems will steadily increase as the town continues to grow in accordance with the regional growth strategy.
“We consider that because of the inadequate capacity of the State Highway 1 intersections, (particularly with Hill St) and for that reason only, the large-format retail development proposed in the plan modifications would not fulfil the purpose of the (Resource Management) act in ensuring the sustainable management of [natural and] physical resources.
“We are satisfied that a workable design solution could be found to the signalisation of the State Highway 1 intersection with Woodcocks Rd that would ensure that the intersection could operate efficiently & safely. We consider that the concerns of Mahurangi College with regard to traffic, access & parking could be satisfactorily addressed by an appropriate intersection design.
“We recognise that the re-design of the intersection advanced at the hearing introduces some uncertainty because of additional works & land acquisition. However we consider that potential delays arising from these additional works could have been accommodated through the imposition of a rule requiring that the activities did not commence until a suitably designed intersection had been completed.
“After considering all of the submissions and the evidence presented at the hearing, we were satisfied in respect of all but one matter that we would have been able to recommend that the council adopt the plan modifications to introduce new zonings for both the large-format retail & retirement village proposals. The crucial issue on which the proposal faltered was in respect of effects on State Highway 1 which the evidence established would be significantly adverse.
“State highways have the primary purpose of efficiently & safely moving people & freight the length & breadth of New Zealand. State Highway 1 is the most important national highway in New Zealand. We were satisfied on the basis of the evidence that the traffic generated by the large-format retail activity would significantly worsen the current substandard performance of the Hill St/State Highway 1 intersection. Furthermore there is no alternative roading option or other traffic solution available in the foreseeable future which would enable the considerable impacts on the efficiency of State Highway 1 to be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
“It is our view that until Transit & the council have addressed this issue, it would be premature to zone land for development with high traffic-generating characteristics that will further compromise the through-traffic function of State Highway 1. We note that all reasonable alternatives to the Perrendale site would require significant utilisation of the State Highway 1/Hill St intersection and, as such, this matter is likely to be an issue irrespective of the location of such development.
“In answer to questions, neither the council nor Transit had active proposals under investigation for this intersection, and a bypass of Warkworth is not on the 10-year programme of Transit.”
Website: Summerset Group