Bid to raise rural roads spend

More money is being sought to maintain the Timaru District's shingle roads, as an increasing number of heavy vehicles takes its toll.

District councillors will meet today to discuss a draft budget for the next financial year.

The roading department has requested increasing the expenditure on maintenance on rural and unsealed roads from $380,000 (as projected in the council's long-term plan) to $480,000.

Council roading manager Andrew Dixon said an increase in heavy vehicle traffic had led to sustained pressure on the roading network.

"You see it particularly in the rural areas, where the dairy and forestry sector is booming," he said.

"That's led to heavier vehicles, and more of them, on the roads, and that leads to our budget being stretched."

Mr Dixon said the council approved a similar-sized increase in the budget last year.

"The results from this increase have been positive. People have noticed the condition of our unsealed and rural roads has been more satisfactory, and it's meant we can keep up with the rate of work required," he said.

"We're asking the councillors to approve a similar increase this year."

Last year, the New Zealand Transport Agency issued 587 permits for 53-tonne-plus High Productivity Motor Vehicles on the Canterbury roading network.

This compared with 225 permits in 2012 and 81 in 2011. Permits are for two years. NZTA was unable to provide figures specific for South Canterbury, but Mr Dixon said there had definitely been a noticeable increase in larger vehicles.

He expected pressures on the council's rural and unsealed roading budget would increase over the next few years.

"It's a combination of factors. You

have increased heavy traffic volume on the rural roads, but also the New Zealand Transport Agency has indicated it would decrease its level of assistance," Mr Dixon said.

"This means the council would have to find new ways to keep up."

Mr Dixon said the council's total proposed maintenance budget of $3.5 million for next year was "about the same" as last year.

"We are getting a bit more efficient in our practices, including cutting back on aspects such as roadside mowing," he said.

"It's absolutely necessary in the new environment.

"We're not getting any more assistance from the Government, but our costs have increased. "This means tighter margins."

The Timaru Herald