by Rhea Dasent, Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor
Federated Farmers members have highlighted to us a discrepancy between the high rates they pay towards roading, and the low level of service they receive.
There is wide concern that their distance from main centres means their roads are low priority for maintenance and repair, yet they have no choices for alternative ways to transport goods, services and people. Single lane, poorly surfaced local roads and old bridges make our rural communities vulnerable, especially when there are natural disasters.
Wairoa District farmers are particularly concerned about being isolated from both Gisborne and Napier. Their roads and the State Highway are prone to erosion, rock falls and flooding.
An earthquake could cut them off completely and take many months or even years to repair – similar to what the Kaikoura district experienced after the 2016 earthquake.
Most of the 4,700 km of roads in the Hawke’s Bay region are classified as local roads. An estimated 55% of kilometres travelled are on local roads. We find councils struggle to upgrade local roads, or even adequately maintain them.
Farmers pay huge roading rates to their district councils, and often feel like they don’t get corresponding value. For example, Federated Farmers has a member who pays $31,000+ per year in rates to the Central Hawkes Bay District Council towards roads, and he is not unique.
Despite this, there are still many unsealed kilometres road in that District. Between 2015 and 2018, only 2km of road was sealed in the central Hawkes Bay. This has thankfully stepped up and 57km of road re-sealing occurred in 2020.
The District Councils undertaking roading activities should adopt equitable and affordable rating mechanisms, and to deliver a regular maintenance and upgrade programme that avoids cost blowouts.
Hastings rural ratepayers will be dreading the massive increase in their bills for the six years ahead because of a legacy issue that Hastings District Council has let fester.
For years, Federated Farmers has been urging our local Hawke’s Bay councils to adopt a hybrid road rating model consisting of a targeted uniform charge as an equal amount paid by all ratepayers in the district, as well as the general rate applied with the existing differentials.