Funding freeze to defer road work

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012

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Getting from A to B is to get increasingly bumpy as a road funding shortfall starts to bite into Taranaki's roads over the next three years.

The NZ Transport Agency has flatlined roading funds to local authorities until 2015 and is likely to continue the funding freeze past then.

Taking inflation into account the move will effectively cut the value of New Plymouth District Council's 2015 $12.3 million district roading budget by a quarter from what it was worth in 2009.

"We will continue to do as much as we can to keep the roads waterproof but it might mean we cannot keep roads as smooth as they are," council roads manager Max Aves said.

"It's going to be a gradual impact over time. Some parts of maintenance may be dropped back. There will be no marked difference straight away but in three, five or seven years people might notice."

Unless there are significant efficiencies made, marked value-for-money gain and marked asset- management improvements Mr Aves said New Plymouth district could expect such things as more potholes, more frequent failures, more complaints and a decrease in rural berm mowing.

"Potentially it could cost us more in the long run. All roading teams would like to think they maintain their asset and give a good experience to road users.

"I think if the value-for-money propositions being suggested are not realised, there will be a gradual deterioration of the asset and there will need to be a reasonable investment to bring it up to current state," Mr Aves said.

New Plymouth district's roads are some of the country's best, scoring better in condition, pavement and smoothness measures than the national average and against comparable towns such as Rotorua, Timaru and Napier.

"We may look at ‘sweating' the assets," council roading engineer Stephen Bowden told Inglewood Community Board yesterday. "Rather than resealing the road every 12 years, let's look how it is. Will it go another year? OK, let's shelve it for a year," he said.

The council may also look at co-operating with neighbouring local authorities and the NZTA to share the governance of Taranaki's roads, which are split between local roads and state highways.

The funding-shortfall issue has already caused problems at Stratford District Council, which got only half the annual $320,000 NZTA funding it wanted to bring its rural logging roads up to scratch.

Without the money the planned 10-year project is now pegged to take two decades.

A freeze in funds is not the only challenge facing Taranaki's roads.

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From 2015 a 5-cents-a-litre tax on petrol collected for regional state highway roading projects will go into a national pot rather than to the area it was collected in.

- Taranaki Daily News

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