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


Moving forward together

Thursday 17 May 2018

Working harder for better roads

Earlier this month, I praised NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) efforts to keep our state highways open. These links are vital and, as we've seen with the recent washout at Pukenui and the closure of Lemons Hill, losing them - even for a short time - has a huge impact on people's lives.

As important as they are, state highways represent only a fraction of the district's road network. In the Far North, we have 2508km of roads, 1650km (65 per cent) of which are unsealed. Scattered along these are 723 bridges, of which 528 are single-lane bridges. The Council already spends more on roads than any other single item - 19 cents in every dollar collected in rates. But with just 36,000 Far North ratepayers, we rely on government funding to help us improve and maintain this infrastructure.

Staff go to considerable effort to win this funding by presenting detailed proposals to NZTA based on traffic flows, population densities, safety issues and growth projections. Our Roading Team has made the Far North one of the most successful councils in the country at securing government subsidies. We have a Funding Assistance Rate of 61 cents in the dollar and this is increasing to 66 cents from July.

We also lead the country in tackling road dust. We have been told that our business case to get Ngapipito and Pipiwai Roads sealed is an exemplar of best practice and we were the first council to receive money under this new funding category.

This week, contractor Broadspectrum began work to widen a section of Kerikeri Road to improve traffic flows and safety at the intersection with Access Road. This project is 60 per cent funded by NZTA and will take around two months to complete.

Residents outside Kerikeri can be forgiven for asking when their roads will receive similar attention. The fact is, Kerikeri Road is the district's busiest thoroughfare and traffic flow is a key criterion for winning NZTA funding.

However, that doesn't mean roads elsewhere are missing out. For example, the Council has just repaired two bridges on Diggers Valley Road in Te Hiku about 11km from State Highway 1. Contractors replaced bridge sections and installed new guardrails and railings under a district-wide bridge renewal programme.

We aim to increase the level of work like this on local roads and will achieve this through new roading contracts (being finalised now) and by tapping into increased road safety budgets signalled by the Government.

Finally, in July the Northland Transport Alliance (NTA) will be fully imbedded and responsible for all new works, renewals and maintenance on local roads. The alliance combines Northland's three district councils along with the Northland Regional Council and NZTA. The aim is to better share resources and deliver more cost-effective transport options for all of Northland.

We know the state of our roads is a key concern for Far North residents. I assure you, the Council is working hard to maintain and improve them.



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