Eroads funding option has real merit
Re: Road funding editorials.
The Maven Consulting report findings support the view that the current property rating system is a crude and inequitable vehicle for allocating the cost of maintaining our roads.
I was interested to read option three and the proposal to use Eroads to log heavy vehicle movements. The Eastland Wood Council spokesperson, during last year’s Long-Term Plan hearings, suggested Eroads as a more equitable option for forestry to pay its fair share. The lack of a response at the time from councillors and the media surprised me. I think this option has real merit as a decisive move towards a user-pay model.
Our region has the highest road maintenance cost in the country due to our geology. An additional regional charge on top of the Road User Charge can be easily justified.
It was disappointing the report did not project forward the impact that increased log tonnage will have on the total cost of road maintenance, given the correlation they had clearly demonstrated over the past five years.
A quick calculation, assuming log tonnage will peak at 5.5 million tonnes in the next five years, suggests the road operations budget, which is basically maintenance, will increase from $31m to $50m, approximately $200m over the next five years. This will blow a big hole in the $232m promised from National Land Transport Programme in the latest government funding package.
I hope Maven will provide more detail on how inequitable the current system is in the next report, and have the courage to investigate one of the significant beneficiaries of the growth in forestry and the massive spend by tax and ratepayers to fix our road network.
Eastland Port depends as much on the road network for its business success as the forest owners and transport operators. A quick online search suggests Eastland Port is rated the same as other commercial/industrial users and contributed approximately $30,000 of road targeted rates. The port made a $17m profit before interest and tax last year, probably putting them at the top of the beneficiary list.