Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 30 July 2015

Roads for the Future

Since I became Mayor of the Far North almost two years ago I've travelled thousands of kilometres on roads throughout the District.

And as Mayor, the biggest gripe I hear from people from one end of the district to the other is the state of our roads. And as I've travelled along almost all of these roads, I agree that these complaints are usually legitimate.

But I've got sympathy for the council's roading engineers and contractors. For our roads take a beating from the weather. And our roads are being clogged with forestry trucks, even though they were never designed for them. No sooner do our contractors fix potholes than it rains again and the potholes reappear or new ones are created. We've also sealed 100-metre sections of roads where logging and other heavy traffic leads to dust problems for residents and marae. But the cost of sealing those roads from end to end is prohibitive.

Yes, fixing our roading problems comes down to cost. When the Council spends money to maintain or improve roads, it comes from your rates and your taxes. There is no free lunch.

We'd love to have more money to make our roads better. The good news is, that for the next three years, we will. It comes from the National Land Transport Programme announced recently by Transport Minister Hon Simon Bridges. It provides $77.7 million for Far North roading operations, maintenance and renewals for 2015-2018. That is a 23% increase on what we've received for the last three years.

In a recent media release I described this as fantastic news for the Far North - and it is. But we have to keep it in perspective. It does not mean that every project on everyone's wish list will automatically happen. Also, $10 million of this increase has been tagged to upgrading roads that have been hammered by the significant increase in forestry traffic in recent years.

To access this funding we first have to put business cases for each project to the New Zealand Transport Agency. That is why I am unable to say which particular projects will go ahead.

However, I am confident there will be a significant increase in roading activity over the next three years in our District. And because roading is a lifeline for our businesses and essential for our families and communities, this is good for us all.

But the good news does not end there. The NZTA Board has approved the designation of Mangakahia Rd and Te Puia Rd as a state highway. Currently we spend $500,000 a year to keep Mangakahia Rd open. Once formal agreements are signed, it is likely that the local share of this money will be available for the Council to spend on the other 2500km of local roads in our District.

Although we will not end up roads paved with gold, the extra funding will mean better roads and more connected communities and businesses in the Far North.


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