Battle continues to fund provincial roads

A nationwide fight has begun for regional road improvement funding and it's being lead by the Taranaki Regional Council.

The TRC is starting a campaign to ensure that provincial roads aren't forgotten once the R Fund expires in April 2015, Roger Maxwell, Regional Transport Committee chairman and regional councillor said.

Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Matthews told a TRC meeting last week there was no consideration being given to extending the R funding regime.

The TRC has sent letters to almost all of New Zealand's other regional council's asking for backing in a campaign to ensure the provinces aren't forgotten.

Mr Maxwell said the response had been mostly good with most smaller regions supporting the initiative. Seven sent letters of support.

"The regional fund is what we rely on to do major work," he said.

The regional fund, created through a five cent per litre petrol levy around 10 years ago, allows significant work to be done on highways.

N funds are nationally distributed and invested in the highest priority improvement projects. R funds are regionally designated and not considered nationally significant, such as the Normanby Overbridge.

Mr Maxwell said areas with a larger population, such as Auckland and Hamilton, would be more likely to receive future N funding.

"We'd like to know how the regional fund, which they've closed off and said is not appropriate, is going to be replaced and what the mechanism will be for us to guarantee to get our share of the resources to continue to maintain and improve our transport network," Mr Maxwell said.

West Coast Regional Council said it shared TRC's concerns.

"As a result we are very keen to see that some form of R Fund equivalent be made available to regions following April 2015," they said in a letter of response.

"Securing a future funding option is essential to continued network improvements for all of us without Roads of National Significance of major metropolitan areas."

Work is now under way for a background paper that could be taken to the Minister of Transport for continued advocacy.

TRC chief executive Basil Chamberlain told the meeting that with larger councils such as Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Auckland and Otago not supporting them, it was a difficult task ahead.

"We recognise we do not have the rest of New Zealand with us. But they were going to keep trying."

A Ministry of Transport spokesman said the Government was committed to ensuring that the New Zealand roading network is reliable, safe and secure, across all regions and local areas.

"New Zealand has very limited funds available for investment in infrastructure. Nationally raised and allocated funds will continue to be directed where we can achieve the best returns. Often smaller centres have an advantage over large centres as their cost of land and materials are lower in a benefit-cost analysis."

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