19 Oct 2009

Local Auckland roading also suffering, says councillor

8:31 pm on 19 October 2009

Auckland will suffer along with everywhere else in re-prioritised roading policies, an Auckland city councillor says.

The Government has increased funds for roads of national importance, and some councils say they have lost millions of dollars in vital subsidies as a result.

Councils in Wanganui, Napier and Southland say that roads essential for local economies will consequently be left to deteriorate.

Auckland city councillor and transport campaigner Graeme Easte says councils everywhere, including Auckland, are seeing funding transferred to big projects.

"Money has been taken from public transport projects and from local projects to be spent on the big headline motorways and none of these have got proper cost-benefit analysis to justify them."

Minister surprised at claims

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says he is surprised at the claims from smaller councils and says they should not be struggling as the local roading budget has risen.

"That particular bucket of money has gone up 17% irrespective of what's happening on the highways, so unless there are some very big winners and losers in local roads around the country then somehow we're not adding it up straight."

He says the budgeted contribution by central government to the renewal and maintenance of local roads has gone up from $1.23 billion to $1.44 billion over the next three years, while the budget for state highways has gone up by 14%.

Mr Joyce says he will ask government agencies to work out what's going on.

Provincial roading budgets 'lose millions'

In August, the Government announced total land transport programme spending would rise by 17% over the next three years.

However, the Southland District Council says it won't be able to maintain roads vital to local exporters, after losing more than $8 million over the period.

Mayor Frana Cardno says she is disappointed that a business-oriented Government hasn't realised the importance of rural and provincial roads to the national economy.

Southland District Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Hay says exporters rely on the roads to get their products to ports and some roads are already in need of maintenance.

In Napier, mayor Barbara Arnott says her area will have to shelve plans for a $26 million freight route to the port, which is essential for exports.

Wanganui mayor Michael Laws has accused the Government of significantly cutting the subsidies for local roading works in regional areas to fund pay for roads in metropolitan areas.

He says Wanganui would normally have about $20 million over the three years to spend on roads, but will now have to cut about $6.5 million worth of works.

"We'll have to look at abandoning some marginal rural roads. Road safety is going to decline, roading stock is going to decline, cycleways just simply won't be built that have been budgeted for - all as a consequence of this policy."

Mr Laws says there's no question that Auckland and Wellington need money spent on their roading networks, but that should not be at the expense of the provinces.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says money has been redirected to key roads with large bottlenecks while other areas have lost tens of millions in subsidies.

"At a time when councils are also being urged to restrain rate increases and we lose significant funding for maintenance from central Government as well, that puts councils in a very precarious position in terms of funding."