Challenges ahead for roads upkeep
Nearly a fifth of our rates money goes towards maintaining 1900km of roads in mainly rural areas, with a view to keeping us all connected and supporting wellbeing and economic growth.
The council’s Long-Term Plan (LTP)that is now out for consultation says “Our roads are expected to deteriorate because forestry production is forecast to increase”, hence another proposed hike in the forestry roading differential, and the inclusion of farm foresters in this rating for areas of 20 hectares or more of plantation forest.
The draft 10-year LTP also notes that a limited roads maintenance budget often gets used on flood repairs rather than important maintenance, and that with climate change the council expects heavier and more frequent winter rains so “we need to be prepared”.
“Thanks to Government investment of over $84 million in the last three years, we’ve lifted the overall state of our roads back to basic levels, but we still face great challenges to keep them to a good standard.”
With no extra government funding like this expected, “our investment levels will be significantly lower, so we have to make tough decisions”.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s “funding assistance rate” for local road projects is also dropping from 68 to 66 percent. The combined budget for the council and Waka Kotahi (which oversees state highway activities, fully funded from the National Land Transport Fund) for the next three years is $189m.
The council’s preferred option in the draft LTP is to spend an average of $16m a year over the next 10 years on maintaining our roads. This involves a rates increase of
1.6 percent a year, no extra debt, and a decrease in levels of service in some areas.
“It’s becoming more expensive to do this work, so we may need to change how we maintain some roads to ensure safe access across the entire network . . . to make roading costs more affordable, we may revert some sealed roads with low traffic numbers to metal.
“With this option, we also plan to spend about $9m on priority safety improvements such as speed reduction and $18m on making the network more resilient and adapting to climate change.”
The draft LTP also outlines an option of increasing budgets for renewals and maintenance from 2025, to an average annual spend of $17.5m over the 10 years of the LTP — with an average rates impact of a 2 percent increase a year, taking on $5.57m more debt, and maintaining levels of service.