Footpath spending 'not high priority'

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 05/06/2014

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Some of Palmerston North's footpaths are "absolutely abominable" and maintenance is falling behind, city councillor Lew Findlay told a committee of council meeting this week.

But staff said more than 95 per cent of the city's footpaths were in good repair, and extra spending was not a high priority.

Councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell said the council was not keeping up with maintenance, and should add at least another $97,000 to its $403,000 budget to do better.

His concern was sparked by a 78-year-old woman who recently tripped over a tree root raising a section of footpath in Lincoln Tce, and hurt her face so badly she was taken to hospital by ambulance.

She was able to go home without being admitted to hospital, but was shocked by the incident and was facing the expense of new spectacles.

"It's an example of where we need to be catering much better for people of all abilities, stability and eyesight," Teo-Sherrell said.

He said he was certain that if roads were allowed to deteriorate as much as footpaths, they would be promptly upgraded.

"Pedestrians are legitimate road users too, and need to be provided for in a way that's safe.

"Our $400,000 budget is clearly not sufficient."

But the council voted against the increase by five votes to 11.

Cr Susan Baty said she would not support ad hoc decision-making because "one old lady fell over".

And Mayor Jono Naylor said the council should take a holistic view.

"Sometimes, if there are issues, it is not just about throwing more money at things. It might be about how the system prioritises."

The council received four submissions to its draft Annual Plan about the condition of footpaths, with two in particular calling for better maintenance.

Last year footpaths emerged as the second biggest grumble among city residents, with only parking causing greater dissatisfaction.

Just over one quarter of the 407 people who answered the Communitrak survey complained about footpaths.

The criticism took council staff by surprise, as they had just completed a two-yearly foot patrol of 1200 kilometres of footpaths in search of rough spots.

Roading manager Graeme Tong said he believed the budget for footpath maintenance was about right.

At the latest count, just 3.27 per cent of the footpath network rated a grading of four or five, where repairs were considered important or urgent. That equated to 131 of 4000 sections of footpaths throughout the city.

Tong said whenever there was a report of anyone tripping or falling, council staff would visit the site and give repairs a higher priority.

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He said he had not received a report about the Lincoln Tce incident, and encouraged people to let the council know if they were involved in or witnessed any falls.

City Networks general manager Ray Swadel said asset management plans would be reviewed next year, which would include taking a comprehensive look at footpaths and advising whether the maintenance budget needed to increase.

- Manawatu Standard

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