Roading cost model comes under attack

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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The Southland District Council's roading cost model came under fire at the final day of hearings for the 2014-15 Draft Annual Plan.

Farmers and foresters launched into the council yesterday about the unfair way road costs were calculated under the Morrison Low model it used.

Federated Farmers senior policy adviser Tanith Robb said the organisation supported a road-user pays policy but farmers were bearing the brunt of the costs under the current tonnage-based policy.

Under the Morrison Low model, the dairy sector was forking out 34.5 per cent of the district's roading costs while the non-dairy sector was paying 37 per cent, Robb told councillors at the final day of submission hearings.

Farmers were meeting 71.5 per cent of the district's roading costs despite accounting for only a combined 25 per cent of the district's total rateable units, she said.

Southland Federated Farmers local government representative Doug Fraser said it was time the council led the way in New Zealand and adopted a more accurate policy.

Under the current system, the tourism industry and medium to heavy traffic commercial operators servicing the urban and rural areas were not contributing their fair share to maintain the roading network, he said.

Councillor Lyall Bailey said the current model was set up to counter road damage caused by those who did the most damage.

"The damage done by cars was only a fraction of that done by heavy vehicles," he said. "Farming is a significant contributor to damage of Southland roads."

Forestry representatives also vented some road rage at the council.

Southland Farm Forestry spokesman Alistair Wilson said the model was flawed and not being applied correctly, with the forestry industry being singled out for unfair charges.

Forestry and dairy had similar demands on roads but were not being treated equally, he said.

Stock feed was not fully accounted for, and balage and silage were not accounted for in the model.

Each year the tinkering to the model increased rates for the forestry industry above what should be expected, Wilson said.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said roading concerns would taken up by the council during its deliberations after hearing all the submissions. The final plan will be prepared and distributed for adoption on June 25. neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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