Funding cut hits roads
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.
Rangitikei District Council has had its financial assistance rate from the NZ Transport Agency decreased, meaning it will have less money to maintain rural roads.
Rangitikei Mayor Chalky Leary said the council spent $15 million on roads each year, and just had its financial assistance rate dropped 1 per cent to 58 per cent, so only $8.7m of its 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 up the standard of the local roads 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.
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 had 54 per cent of fatal crashes.
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 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.