Ratepayers 'hurt by roading policy'

ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012

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The Labour Party has brought its campaign attacking the government's "roads of national significance" policy to Timaru.

Labour's transport spokesman Phil Twyford was in the city this week, meeting with Timaru District Mayor Janie Annear and council land transport manager Andrew Dixon.

He said ratepayers were being unfairly burdened by road maintenance costs.

The west Auckland MP's visit is part of an information gathering trip to councils around the southern South Island.

"Timaru, like many other parts of provincial New Zealand is really suffering because of cuts to funding to local roads," he said.

Funding was being re-focused towards the New Zealand Transport Agency's seven "roads of national significance" projects that the government will spend $12 billion on in the next 10 years, while local authorities struggled to afford road maintenance, he said.

Local authorities in the southern South Island had large roading networks to maintain and had a relatively small ratepayer base, he said. "This is an issue that's really hurting those communities."

He used the example of Timaru District Council's commercial arm, Timaru District Holdings, contributing $100,000 "just to keep roading projects going".

"The Timaru ratepayer is having to bail out central government for maintenance of local roads. I think that's really unfair."

He said many local roads were economic lifelines for communities. "There's no question that with the funding cuts you can't avoid the fact that it means losing maintenance of the roads."

He planned to bring the issues up in the House and in select committee.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said despite tight economic conditions and funding constraints, the Government's investment in local roading networks was significant.

About $1.3b was earmarked for local road maintenance, operations and renewals over the next three years through the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme.

"That represents a 2.3 per cent increase on the previous three years."

Investment in the Timaru district over the next three years would be $32 million, which was an increase of 5.2 per cent.

The level of investment in each regional roading network was determined by assessing the current road conditions, safety performance and freight demand.

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- The Timaru Herald

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