Rate rise likely to fund roads

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 19/11/2012

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Rates increases are on the cards for rural residents as councils wonder how they are going to pay for roads and keep residents safe in the face of funding freezes.

The Government has frozen funding on local roads until 2015, but will invest $10 billion on seven "roads of national significance" in the state highways network.

In addition, a ministerial briefing by the NZ Transport Agency, obtained by the Labour Party under the Official Information Act, shows the rate of death and serious injuries on state highways is forecast to decline from 1036 last year to 841 in 2021.

However, deaths and serious injuries on local roads are expected to rise from 1624 last year to 1721 in a decade.

During the same period the number of deaths and serious injuries for car drivers and passengers is predicted to fall from 1761 to 1466, but those for motorcyclists are expected to rise from 457 to 632, and from 172 to 240 for cyclists.

Tararua and Rangitikei district councils have had their financial assistance rate (FAR) from the agency decreased, meaning they will have less money to help in the upkeep of their extensive networks of rural roads.

Rangitikei Mayor Chalky Leary said the council spent $15m on roads each year, and just had its FAR rate dropped 1 per cent to 58, so only $8.7m of their roading costs would be covered.

Mr Leary said his first move would be to argue for that figure to go back up to pay for the roads, but in the end it was better to keep the standard of the local roads up and pay for it through rates increases, rather than let conditions slip.

Rural roads were lifelines for farmers and their families who had to commute to school and town, and roads that were not up to scratch were a safety hazard, he said.

Tararua Deputy Mayor Bill Keltie said his council would also have to look at how it was going to pay for roading.

Where the funds would come from would be for ratepayers to decide.

Mr Keltie was troubled by the NZTA's prediction that the number of deaths on local roads would increase.

"How come we've got our roading agency, supposedly keeping us safe on the roads, predicting accidents because they haven't got enough money? It's hard to fathom."

Palmerston North MP and Labour transport safety spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said from an economic standpoint, keeping the road through the Manawatu Gorge open or building a road that could stay open was important, as was the link between Palmerston North and Feilding.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said NZTA took a national perspective and aimed to invest in areas where the greatest reduction in deaths and serious injuries could be made. State highways were 12 per cent of the roading network, but accounted for 54 per cent of all fatal crashes. Fairfax NZ

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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