News that the government has shifted funding for local road maintenance back up a gear is heartening for rural families dismayed by potholed access and dilapidated bridges, Federated Farmers says.
“What we need now is for district councils all over New Zealand to dedicate a significant portion of this increased funding to dealing with the backlog of repairs to rural roads and bridges,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and transport spokesperson Karen Williams says.
Earlier this year, right when the nation’s district and city councils were finalising Long-Term Plan budgets, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency warned it was $420 million short for the local road subsidies it had already indicatively approved. But today, in announcing final decisions on the 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), the government responded to the outcry this caused with an extra $2 billion for local road maintenance.
This brings the total amount available for local road and state highway maintenance to $7 billion over the next three years.
“Federated Farmers compliments the government for recognising that failing to do the necessary maintenance on local roads is false economy in the long run,” Karen said. “This should mean that councils can re-dedicate themselves to those roading projects that were under threat from the reduced Waka Kotahi subsidies.”
In putting together its submission on the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport last year, Federated Farmers heard from members in many districts lamenting slumping rural roads, crumbling asphalt and bridges with suspect decking and pools of water.
“Urban folk can often choose public transport, or take a different route that might add five or 10 minutes to a journey,” Karen said.
“But when a poorly maintained road in a more remote rural area becomes dangerous, or is closed for repairs, it can cause total upheaval for family life, farming business and getting stock and produce out and vital supplies in. That’s disruption not just for those families and farm staff, but also bad news for a pandemic-hit economy when we need every export dollar our primary sector earns.”
Federated Farmers is very interested to see how the extra government transport funding is allocated, and in particular what today’s NLTP announcements mean for those rural roads and bridges in Canterbury seriously damaged by winter flooding.
The NLTP also includes $2.9 billion for road safety initiatives as part of the Road to Zero drive to eliminate fatal and serious crashes.
“We can’t rely on reduced speed limits as the answer to everything,” Karen said. “Investing in better roads, improved intersections and new passing lanes and the like pays off not just in dollars but in human lives.”