Southland road fund cash at risk
Millions of dollars of regional transport funding could be lost to Southland and spent in other parts of the country as the deadline to commit the funds to the south's projects looms.
Regional funds, introduced in 2005 for a 10-year period, are based on a proportion of fuel tax and road-user charges and are distributed to the regions.
Southland has almost $20 million of regional funds in the NZ Transport Agency books but, if the money is not committed and approved for projects by 2015, it will go back into the national funding pot.
At a Regional Transport Committee meeting at Environment Southland last week, agency southern region director Jim Harland said the agency had ranked and prioritised roading projects as part of the National Land Transport Programme 2012-15.
Six Southland projects to be paid for out of the regional fund had been put on the probable list, and five were on the reserve list, which meant they were unlikely to happen during the next three years. They might be on the funding list for the next three-year plan, Mr Harland said.
Those on the probable list had a "reasonable chance" of being delivered during the current plan, he said.
NZ Transport Agency Otago Southland planning and investment adviser Ian McCabe said the probables were expected to be funded but still needed to go through the critical test to get funding approval.
Two of the projects on the probable list which were likely to go ahead in the next three years were safety improvements to the Homer Tunnel and the Edendale realignment construction. The investigation and design aspects of the tunnel upgrade were expected to cost almost $3 million, and the Edendale design and construction more than $8.5m. Both would be paid for by the regional fund.
The Government had a commitment to spend the regional fund dollars in the regions they were generated, Mr McCabe said.
When asked how this commitment was fed into the ranking, system, Mr McCabe said not many
regions had money left in their regional funds.
There was flexibility around some projects, and reserves may be funded if projects on the probables list could not go ahead, Mr McCabe said.
Committee chair Ali Timms said the committee was trying to be proactive and make plans but did not have the ability to do that if it lacked certainty around funding.
Where the agency saw flexibility, she saw uncertainty.
If projects were re-submitted "in the best possible light" they could move up the rankings, Mr Harland said.
They could work with council staff on preparing the projects to be reviewed.
Gore district councillor Nicky Davis said local government was expected to plan meticulously and give certainty to ratepayers.
"We spend a lot of time, money and effort on plans and the goalposts keep shifting and it is extremely frustrating."
Otago had already committed all of its regional funds to projects, Mr McCabe said.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Regional funds are based on a proportion of fuel tax and road-user charges and distributed to regions, where the decisions are made on how they are spent.
National funds are distributed across the country according to where the Government perceives the greatest needs.
The NZ Transport Agency uses its Investment and Revenue Strategy to determine the priority of a transport activity and whether it will be included in the National Land Transport Programme: It considers how well it aligns with the agency's strategic direction, its effectiveness, and economic efficiency.
Source: NZ Transport Agency
- © Fairfax NZ News
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