Roading budget request declined

Roading in the Mackenzie district has been placed in a difficult situation due to a major decline in Government funding.

The New Zealand Transport Authority declined the district council's request for $8.9 million in funding over three years to cover renewals and essential maintenance. Instead, the NZTA offered to cover about $7.3m. The decision leaves the council in some difficulty, as the NZTA subsidises about half the council's roading budget.

Mackenzie District Council asset manager Bernie Haar said NZTA's offer represents a funding increase of about 3 per cent over 2009 levels, but fell below the required amount to keep the council's roads up to date.

"We're actually falling behind, not staying afloat. In real terms, it's well below both inflation and the cost of operations and contracting," he said.

"The NZTA has asked us to be more efficient, I'd like to see them say where we can find these efficiencies. Roading is something that affects every ratepayer; everyone notices if something needs to be repaired."

Mr Haar acknowledged the council had received a better deal than some other councils. "The average national increase is about 2.3 per cent on 2009 levels, so everyone has the same problem."

He said as the council had decided not to change its roading budget, it would have to work out the best way to rate for it.

"But to put it into perspective, if we were to go out to the marketplace and re-tender our maintenance contract, the tender prices could be considerably higher, and there would be no top-up from NZTA."

The Timaru Herald