Bypass of Mt. Messenger

Bypass of Mt. Messenger

In 2016 the runanga was approached by NZTA where they presented their plans for road improvements in North Taranaki on State Highway 3 (SH3) from Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger to improve safety, resilience and route availability. This 58km section of SH3 is Taranaki’s main route north. The State Highway 3 Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger Programme is made up of 3 projects; The Mt Messenger Bypass, The Awakino Tunnel Bypass and the SH3 safety and resilience improvements. Of these 3 projects, the Mt Messenger bypass will have the biggest impact on Ngati Tama cultural and environmental values, therefore the board adopted the stance that there be the least possible impact on these values as possible, if this project where to go ahead.



Selection of preferred route

Cultural Values
A cultural values assessment was carried out and was used to select a
route that will have the least impact on these values.

Environment and ecological Values
A huge amount of work was carried out to gather baseline data of the
health of the environment and ecological values in all the areas where
there were proposed route alignments.  This work was carried out by
qualified ecologists from Tonkin and Taylor and Opus on behalf
NZTA/MMA (Mt Messenger Alliance). This work was peer reviewed by an independent ecology consultant company (Boffa Miskell) on behalf of
Ngati Tama to ensure results were veracious. Surveys and monitoring of biodiversity continues.

Multi Criteria Assessment (MCA)
The board attended 2 MCA workshops/hui wananga in Wellington. We
looked at all the proposed route alignment’s and gathered all information compiled including cultural, environment, ecology, constructability,
regional development and more. We then implemented a process to score each proposed alignment and come up with the current alignment. Our
objective to decide on an alignment with the least impacts on our values was achieved. During and after this process a series of Iwi consultation
hui were carried out.

New route selected and funded
In 2017 a final set of route options for Mt. Messenger was presented to the public (https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/awakino-gorge-to-mt-messenger-programme/mt-messenger-update-on-options.pdf). Following extensive public consultation and engagement with local communities, the councils and many others, the NZ Transport Agency announced in the
same year, a preferred option for Mt Messenger (https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/mount-messenger-bypass-option-selected), to the tune of
$200m. The route crosses our rohe and runs east of SH3. Of the options
considered, it had lesser environmental and cultural impact than the
other options put up. It also meets the Transport Agency’s desire to
deliver improved road safety, resilience and route availability. A better
highway it says, will connect Taranaki and the Waikato and potentially
boost economic activity in the region. (https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/awakino-gorge-to-mt-messenger-programme/mt-messenger/)
An independent hearing (http://www.newplymouthnz.com/Council/Have-Your-Say/Consultations-and-Surveys/Mt-Messenger-Bypass) was held on
the project’s resource consents and Notice of Requirement (NoR) (https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/awakino-gorge-to-mt-messenger-programme/mt-messenger/rma-applications/assessment-of-effects-on-the-environment/). In December 2018 the hearing commissioner granted consents and recommended to the Transport Agency that the NoR be confirmed. The resource consents and NOR are subject to conditions.
Some appeals have been received by the Environment Court.  

Mt Messenger Bypass
A bypass of Mt Messenger is 5.2km long with more work at the southern end creating about 6 km of improvements. It’s located east of the existing highway and includes two bridges about 30m and 110m long and an
estimated 230m long tunnel under the ridgeline south-east of Mt
Messenger.
 
Cultural expression and landscape
We’ve had ongoing hui and conversations with the Mt Messenger
Alliance to discuss stories of place and landscape matters.
Through this narrative, themes have arisen about the importance we
place on the Waipingao as a rich resource and wider ridge-to-reef
landscape. As well as the traditional role we have played as gatekeepers
of the wider Taranaki particularly from the north.
Key design points along the bypass will reflect this narrative through
concepts of whakaruruhau (or the shelter, protection or haven) and Te
Wero (the challenge).
A Maori designer is on board and helping with the design elements.
See the Landscape, natural character and visual assessment report
submitted as part of the project’s resource consent applications.(https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/awakino-gorge-to-mt-messenger-programme/mt-messenger/rma-applications/technical-reports/)

Environmental, Ecological and Biodiversity restoration and
protection

Kokako
Tiaki Te Mauri O Parininihi Trust, on behalf of Ngati Tama has for many years been preparing the Parininihi project area for repatriation of
kokako to Taranaki. These birds were re-introduced into Parininihi in
2017. To ensure the future distribution of this taonga species the bypass
incorporated a tunnel and bridge into the design. This was a factor in
deciding on the proposed alignment and having minimum impact on
current conservation work carried out by Ngati Tama.

Kiwi
There are surveys currently being carried out and there is a number kiwi in the proposed alignment area, however with the predator numbers theway they are in this area, juvenile kiwi have less than 5% chance of
survival.  The plan to implement predator control and construct kiwi
fences and underpasses will ensure kiwi numbers will recover. The
current road does not have these mechanisms in place therefore we have had kiwi deaths and the odd kiwi on the road.

Bats/Peka peka
The recent bat and bat roost survey operation has confirmed the
presence of bats in the alignment and wider area including the
Mangapepeke, Mimitangiatua, Waipingao, Parininihi, Waikaramarama,
Mt Messenger, Kiwi Road. Although bat presence is confirmed, experts
have said that compared to other areas in the country, numbers are low
and are at risk of disappearing all together. The proposed pest
management of 3650ha will stop the decline of this species.

The current road
For decades the current road has had toxins that come of vehicles leach
into the environment as well as rubbish and weeds of all sorts dumped
off the side of the road. Weeds and rubbish that are dumped have spread down into the gully’s and this has had a detrimental effect on the
environment. The proposed bypass will have mechanisms in place where any toxins coming of the road will be collected in ponds that will be
cleared periodically. It will also be designed in a way that would make it
very difficult to dump rubbish.

Trees and vegetation
The proposed alignment has been designed in a way that avoids as many
significant trees as possible, and considerable work was done to do this,
however 17 significant trees will need to be felled to construct the road.
To mitigate this, a major tree replanting operation will be carried out.
The alignment area as well as the wider surrounding areas’, where there has been minimal pest management and in particular, the wetlands,
where there has been stock intrusions and high numbers of goats and
pig’ – are in a state that is close to collapse due to overwhelming pest
numbers. The opportunity to implement pest management, wetlands
restoration and riparian planting is an opportunity to reverse this
decline.
 
Read the Ecological mitigation and offset report submitted as part of the
project’s resource consent applications https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/awakino-gorge-to-mt-messenger-programme/MMA-ENV-ECL-RPT-1044-ecological-mitigation.pdf)

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