A plan to build a road through prime horticultural land has been rubber stamped by the Hastings District Council.
The council debated the merits of the Whakatu arterial route for 90 minutes at a meeting yesterday before voting in favour of a preferred option based on a long-term view it will lead Hawke's Bay to a higher level of economic growth.
The road would connect traffic to the proposed Whakatu distribution centre where the Port of Napier has plans to expand its operation, creating more economic activity.
The council researched four options for the new road but the preferred one would cross over some of the best fruit growing land in the region, between Mangateretere and Whakatu.
The road would cost about $10 million and would be eligible for a 61 per cent subsidy from New Zealand Transport Agency.
The council heard NZTA was unlikely to support any other route, such as one suggested on nearby Ruahapia Rd, because it could not achieve the highest benefit to cost figures.
The council also wanted to avoid the Ruahapia Rd option because it may require Maori land. Councillor Rod Heaps said he couldn't support the preferred option because the council was supposed to protect the growing soils of the Heretaunga Plains.
"I detest using good horticultural land for this road and it concerns me that we have NZTA suggesting it will not fund any other option other than the one that takes the shortest route," Cr Heaps said. "We have got prime horticultural land here which we are going to chop up into little pieces and it's unlikely to be productive after that."
Cr Heaps wanted the Ruahapia Rd option approved because he felt it had the lowest impact on land owners.
But it did not achieve the votes needed to pass and the majority support was shown or the preferred Mangateretere option.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said research on all of the road options had been extensive.
"I have a letter from the Port of Napier which says how supportive they are for this road which is the number one priority for the region.
"I agree this option will cause some difficulties for some properties, like the Fulford's (Mangateretere) as the road will impact on their houses and their orchard production.
"But there is some middle ground there for the road to be moved so it does not take out the Fulford house and minimised the impact on their orchard."
Mr Yule said the Port of Napier had not confirmed it would develop its land at Whakatu but it was still appearing as the "lynchpin to success" when it came to growing the region's economy.
Whakatu arterial route: Hastings District Council's next steps
- Council transportation staff will make adjustments to the preferred route.
- Detailed designs of the confirmed route will begin then.
- An assessment of environmental effects will be completed.
- Consultation with the public begins.
- Final designation of the road confirmed.
- Construction begins.