Tasman puts squeeze on spending

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:58 19/08/2014

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Tasman has slashed its draft 30-year transportation work programme by $54.4 million, cutting "nice to have" projects from its proposed list of jobs over the next decade.

The move is a recognition that business as usual will not tackle its increasing roading debt.

Meeting "need to have" issues has seen some delayed projects brought forward, such as the widening of Oxford St and Lower Queen St, and new projects put into the mix, such as reconstructing Bateup Rd, improving Motueka's High St-Pah St corner for pedestrians and increasing the council's subsidy of the NBus service between Richmond and Nelson.

Proposed cutbacks from next financial year to 2024-25 include cutting the council's network and asset management programme by $12m, reducing proposed drainage renewals by $8.3m, and reducing new footpath work by $2m.

Sealed pavement resurfacing, bridge renewals and minor improvements are also planned to be cut by $4.8m each over the 10 years.

But staff looked to increase the council's emergency reinstatement work by $12m over the next decade in response to storm events.

As at June 30 the council's subsidised roading debt sat about $23m and about $10m for non-subsidised roading projects.

Roading projects subsidised by the NZ Transport Agency include road resealing, rehabilitation, seal extensions, drainage renewals and bridge replacement. Non-subsidised projects include footpaths, car parks, cycle trails and beautification projects.

Transportation network engineer Jenna Voigt told an engineering services meeting the council had made significant inroads into its backlog of drainage projects and the budget could be reduced.

Some risk was associated with reducing the council's spend on road resurfacing as it could create a bow-wave of jobs if the cutback went on for too long, Voigt said. Hence the council's annual $2.5m seal resurfacing spend would be reduced for a few years, monitored, and returned to normal levels.

Seal extensions were no longer financially viable and footpath construction had shifted to a "need to have" basis.

However staff plans to remove the planned $1m spend on undergrounding Motueka's power lines in High St, because the project was seen as having no safety and only aesthetic value, hit some opposition.

Motueka councillor Peter Canton said it was vital the King Edward to Wakawera streets stage went ahead because that was where High St narrowed and he had seen two serious "car v pole" accidents.

Motueka councillor Barry Dowler asked why staff wanted to spend $550,000 on putting traffic lights on the corner of Pah and High streets when the council already has plans to install push-button pedestrian signals in High St.

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Transportation manager Gary Clark said the intersection already had a pedestrian accident history and the intersection's crossing had the most impact on traffic flow, meeting where people wanted to cross and planning around the town centre's future planned upgrade.

But councillors backed the council spending more on the NBus service and backed increasing the current $10,000 annual subsidy to Nelson City Council to $31,000 in years one to three of the programme and to $41,000 annually thereafter.

The proposed changes were approved subject to being considered in a workshop later this month.

- The Nelson Mail

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