Funding squeeze to raise danger on smaller roads

CRASH MAP: South Canterbury crashes between 2007 and 2012.
CRASH MAP: South Canterbury crashes between 2007 and 2012.

State highways in South Canterbury are predicted to become safer over the next decade - but at a cost to local roads, which will become more dangerous, new documents show.

Roading has been placed in a difficult situation due to a decline in Government funding.

Across the region, millions have been cut in funding over three years, leaving councils short on funds to cover renewals and essential maintenance.

Timaru District Council had budgeted for $12.5m annually which was put back to $10.5m.

In Mackenzie, the New Zealand Transport Agency declined the council's request for $8.9m, approving $7.3m instead. Waimate had requested $11m but was granted $9.04m.

A ministerial briefing by the Transport Agency, obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act, shows the rate of death and serious injuries on state highways is forecast to decline from 1036 last year to 841 in 2021.

However, deaths and serious injuries on local roads are expected to rise from 1624 last year to 1721 in a decade.

Over the same period the number of deaths and serious injuries for car drivers and passengers is predicted to fall from 1761 to 1466, but those for motorcyclists are expected to rise from 457 to 632 and cyclists from 172 to 240.

Timaru land transport manager Andrew Dixon said the district's roads would not be maintained to the same level under the current round of funding.

"It means that there is less work that we can do."

Timaru was fortunate in terms of the big picture, however.

"Some of the regions got substantial cuts.

"We put up a good case and we listed all the projects we've got on our books.

"We did it properly and it paid dividends," Mr Dixon said.

South Canterbury road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said it was likely that funding cuts would affect road safety.

"In a way I would say yes, we are focusing on roads that have higher volumes of traffic; we can't cover everything. In times like these you have to prioritise.

"If you take into consideration that we have had a problem with the standards of roads for a long time then you understand. We have money for certain roads and we prioritise."

Mr Naude said some rural roads were not up to standard and people needed to slow down to suit the conditions.

The Timaru Herald