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

JOHN CARTER - MAYOR OF THE FAR NORTH DISTRICT OF NEW ZEALAND


Moving forward together

5 December 2019

Building resilient and safe roads

Over the past three years, I have driven over 107,000km in the Far North and Northland in my role as your Mayor. I have attended meetings, visited community groups, opened facilities and helped celebrate significant personal and community milestones in every corner of our district.

I think it is fair to say I have a hands-on knowledge of our roading network. Without doubt, improving, maintaining and paying for our roads is a huge challenge for the Council. However, I am confident we are on the right track and I am proud of the gains we are making in this area. Before sharing some of these wins, I think it is important to restate the challenges we face in the Far North.

Our district has 2508km of roads. Only 35 per cent, or 858km, of these are sealed. We already spend 19 cents of every rates dollar on roads - more than any other single item. Compared to similar districts, we spend a lot maintaining our roads. That’s because we have a high rate of slips, floods and road failures due to heavy sub-tropical rains that wreak havoc on our unstable and steep terrain. We also have a high number of logging and dairy trucks using our road network.

In the 2018/19 financial year, we allocated $22.3 million to improve our roads and another $20.4 million to maintain what we have. We will spend another $4 million this financial year combatting dust by sealing sections of six Far North rural roads. Road dust, especially where there is logging and dairy traffic, is a problem for many rural residents and we are focusing limited resources on sealing our highest priority roads. Deciding which roads (and which sections of those roads) should be sealed is never easy.

To do this in an objective and transparent way, we have developed a matrix that ranks individual sections of every unsealed road in the district. The matrix includes details on traffic volumes, the number of residents on each road, prevailing winds, and the distance homes are from the road. It lists schools and marae, and whether a road is used by heavy vehicles. This is an unbelievably detailed and complex tool, and one that other councils are interested in adopting.

Alongside our partner councils in the Northland Transportation Alliance, we have also been talking to the forestry industry. This has provided an agreement to share the cost of applying dust suppressants on a significant number of Northland roads. In the Far North, this will reduce dust nuisance on 50 roads and bring relief to more than 160 of our worst affected property owners. This is a great result and demonstrates the gains we can make by working together.

The state of our roads is something many of you are concerned about. It’s a big task, but I assure you that progress is being made to provide all residents and visitors to the Far North with resilient and safe roads.

 

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