National MP for Rodney Mark Mitchell has called on the Government to put part of their $7.5 billion surplus towards restarting work on the Warkworth to Wellsford highway.
The Government on Tuesday announced their surplus increased to $7.5 billion for the 2018/19 year, up by $2 billion from last year and $4 billion higher than forecast.
Mr Mitchell was joined by Greens co-leader James Shaw on Breakfast's Political Panel this morning to discuss the surplus.
Mr Shaw said part of the Government's surplus will be used to put $2 billion more towards regional roads nationwide than the previous government, while another $2 billion more will go towards maintaining the state highway network.
"The problem with the roading projects though, James, is that you’re messing around on the fringes," Mr Mitchell responded.
"Because, for example, if you take my electorate of Rodney, you're doing some safety work on the Dome Valley but actually, what we need to deliver is a world-class highway," Mr Mitchell said.
"I'm not against [safety work], but you're messing around on the fringes. You're not making any real, tangible difference to people's lives.
"What you can do is restart the Warkworth to Wellsford road of national significance, deliver a world-class highway – that's how you start to make a real difference for the people of Northland and that's how you start reducing serious accidents and fatalities."
Work on the Warkworth to Wellsford highway hasn't started and is in an "investigation phase" according to NZTA's website.
Mr Shaw, however, disagreed, adding that the Government has put in around 20 per cent more work into road safety on local roads and state highway networks than the previous Government.
"If you look at what happened during that period of time, maintenance work flatlined for about 10 years and road deaths actually increased, so you've got to improve the network that exists to make sure that those roads are safe, particularly because there's increased pressure on it," he said.
Mr Mitchell said while he couldn't disagree with Mr Shaw's claims of an increase in road safety, he said New Zealand should see "a massive investment now and commitment from this Government in terms of delivering world-class highways".
"That's how we get our economy moving, that's how we allow people to reduce their transit times, and that's how we make a real, massive difference in terms of safety."
Mr Shaw countered, "I think the evidence is against that."
"Regardless of whether you're choosing to spend money on maintenance or gold-plated super highways, you've actually got to look after people on low incomes, and I think that that has clearly been highlighted in the last few days.
"In fact, the work we've done in Government sort of illustrates just how big that gap has become over the course of the past 30 years or so."