Increased logging, old debt and four years of commissioner governance have left Kaipara District Council with an uphill struggle when it comes to road repairs.
That was the message from Mayor Greg Gent and infrastructure manager Curt Martin when they held six public roading meetings throughout the district in early July.
Speaking at Mangawhai Domain, Mayor Gent said the maintenance spend was “very low” from 2010 to 2014, at just 42 per cent of the average budget, with the lowest year dipping below $2 million, in 2012, compared to a peak of $7.1 million in 2007.
He explained that 61 per cent of Kaipara’s total roading budget was government funded via the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), and 39 per cent from ratepayers. Council missed out on the NZTA subsidy while Kaipara was run by commissioners, and those lost sums could not be reclaimed or back-dated, plus additional council funds were lost during the “rates strike”, when many residents refused to pay rates.
“There was a big dip in the graph when we were non-council. A huge amount of money was pulled out of roads,” he said. “We’re back to a more normal spend now, but we’ve got a big hill to climb to catch up, and you’re seeing the results of that in a very tangible way.”
Curt Martin explained that an unprecedented increase in logging traffic was also taking a heavy toll on rural routes, and there was insufficient funding to keep up.
“Roads were never constructed for that amount of heavy traffic,” he said. “We acknowledge that portions of our unsealed network are below standard, and we’ll do everything we can to maintain it. We have $2.13 million for heavy metalling, but it’s not enough.”
He explained that 72 per cent of Kaipara’s 1573km road network was unsealed and even though much of it was classified as ‘low volume’, the difficult terrain also made it some of the most expensive to maintain. An additional $2.2 million per year for extra heavy metalling had been sought from NZTA, but only $1 million had been granted. However, council is trialling new blends of aggregate from six different quarry sites in a bid to help matters and extend the time needed between grading.
The meetings also heard that recent storms had added to this year’s repairs bill, with serious slips on Mangawhai Road and elsewhere requiring a potential extra $1.2 million, and that sealed road maintenance would be likely to stall in coming years since, in the view of NZTA, Kaipara had spent “too much” on its sealed road network.
Info: Roading presentation slides link at kaipara.govt.nz/Our+District/Have+Your+Say.html