Mackenzie struggles to meet roading infrastructure upgrades

Provincial councils miss out on a large portion of national roading funds, making it hard for councils to be able to ...
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Provincial councils miss out on a large portion of national roading funds, making it hard for councils to be able to upgrade and maintain roads within their yearly budget, Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith says.

District councils miss out on a large portion of national roading funds, making it hard to be able to upgrade and maintain roads within their yearly budget, Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith says.

Roading within the Mackenzie was a big project in the 2017/2018 annual plan, with $700,000 allocated to unsealed road metalling and $1.28 million - of which $596,000 is for metalling and $684,000 for sealing - to maintain its sealed roading network. 

Smith said roads within the Mackenzie District such as State Highway 8 were coping "pretty well" with the increasing volume of travellers but there was still plenty more work to be done on infrastructure in the district. 

There were safety concerns surrounding State Highway 79, connecting Fairlie and Geraldine, particularly in the Mt Michael area, which saw a number of crashes, and widening the road in places would be helpful to reduce this, he said. 

As well as this, Lilybank Rd in Tekapo would see between 700 and 800 travellers a day, especially in the winter, being the only road taking visitors to Roundhill Skifield. Anywhere else that amount of traffic would lead to a sealed road, he said. 

"It's a more general thing for provincial New Zealand, we miss out on a lot of roading money as it's being spent in 'the Aucklands'.

"In the Mackenzie we are very constrained in terms of funding from the NZ Transport Agency, due to being a small council with a small ratepayer base." 

While the council would continue to lobby for further funding it was "very very frustrating" that there was no more money being put into regional roading. 

He said he was "in the same boat as a lot of rural mayors" and the council was trying to maintain the roads within its budget, to the best possible standard. 

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Government was investing more than ever before in New Zealand's transport system.

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"We understand that New Zealand needs strong national and inter-regional connections to keep our economy growing. That's why we have invested in programmes like the $212 million Accelerated Regional Roading Programme." 

Last week National announced a $10.5 billion package for roading infrastructure on 10 roads of national significance ahead of next month's election.

One of those promised was a four-lane highway from Christchurch to Ashburton, which National Rangitata candidate Andrew Falloon has said he would push to have extended to Timaru. 

Labour transport spokesman Michael Wood said regional roads had been "badly neglected" by the National-led Government. 

He regularly heard from mayors, community groups, and organisations like the Automobile Association about poorly maintained and dangerous regional roads and a complete lack of funding support. 

"The current Government has focused on big flashy motorways but has forgotten about the bread and butter – safe and well-maintained regional roads."

Often small regional councils had a very limited rating base, but a huge network of regional roads to look after, which was a particular issue for many councils in the South Island, Wood said. 

"They just can't do it on their own and government needs to provide more support."

Labour announced this week it would boost funding for regional roads in the NZTA budget from a current range of $70-$140 million to $140-$280m, if elected into government, Wood said. 

Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull said the Mackenzie was a "really good example" of a district that had a very limited budget due to its small ratepayer base. 

"From LGNZ's point of view we have advocated [to government] for new forms of funding for infrastructure." 

Provincial roads were of a "national benefit" as they connected tourists entering the country from the cities to the regions and ought to have more funding, Cull said.  

The NZTA said it would respond on Friday. 

 

 - Stuff

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