Council 'luxuries' may have to go

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012

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Councils may have to sacrifice "luxury" projects or deal with more death and mayhem on deteriorating roads, a roading watchdog says.

A New Plymouth District Council report released this week shows the local authority's New Zealand Transport Agency roading subsidy has been flatlined for the next three years.

With no intention of having ratepayers top up the local roading budget the reports states the real value of the council's road spend could drop as much as a quarter over the next three years.

Unless efficiencies could be made the council has warned local roading quality will suffer, something Road Transport Association regional manager Tom Cloke said they cannot not allow to happen.

"They have to start looking at where they put their money. It's time for them to get real, dig into their own coffers and put money back into roads," Mr Cloke said.

"You have to ask yourself. Do you really need Len Lye? I'm only using that as an example. There may be other things that we could put on the back burner. Things that would be nice for the city but we can't afford right now. And if you don't have a roading infrastructure you can't get to them anyway."

Mr Cloke said fatal crashes would increase if roads were not maintained properly and both NZTA and council needed to make sure they kept investing in roads through the economic downturn.

New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven said the council already spent 19 cents in every ratepayer dollar on roads and was under pressure to cut costs across the board.

"I don't think we're going to top up the roading budget voluntarily. I think it will be launched on us by government over time as the roading budget decreases," he said.

Mr Duynhoven said he had submitted to Parliament's commerce select committee on Wednesday for districts to get a small percentage of royalties from oil and mining operation in their area to cover the strain they put on local infrastructure.

If this was forthcoming it would help the district maintain a good quality of roading, he said.

Regional state highways manager David McGonigal said for the three years to 2015, $78.3m was set aside for the maintenance, operation and renewals of highways in Taranaki, compared with $65.3m for the previous three years.

"And as for the claim of a higher accident rate, from 2007 to 2011, total crashes reduced by 20 per cent on Taranaki state highways, from around 500 to around 400. We are pleased that total crashes for 2012 are currently tracking to be the lowest in many years," Mr McGonigal said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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