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Unsealed roads

Most of the road network in the Far North is unsealed. Find out more about how the council maintains, seals and reduces road dust on these roads.

Unsealed roads (grading, potholes and dust)

Unsealed road conditions vary according to local conditions and traffic loads. They pothole when wet, and become loose, corrugate, and create a lot of dust when dry. The council has a programme of maintenance that includes grading and pothole repair. The cycle for this programme is based on how many cars use the road.

Dealing with dust

Our district has 2,508 km of roads, only 35% (858km) of which are sealed. This means many people live near unsealed roads where dust is a nuisance in dry weather.

We estimate that it would cost $500 million to seal all the unsealed roads in the District. This would add about $14,000 to each rates bill for one year. On top of that, there would be additional ongoing maintenance costs. Clearly, this isn’t affordable for most people. However, the council is committed to sealing sections of unsealed road where the need is greatest.

Traffic on unsealed roads impacts nearby residents, affecting their health as well as general quality of life; for example, dust on washing lines, roof dust contaminating water supplies, and dust inside homes.

There are three funding options available to the Far North District Council for the sealing of roads:

  • Non-subsidised sealing (100% funded from rates)
  • Subsidised sealing (69% subsidised by Waka Kotahi NZTA [69% from 1 July 2021])
  • Community funded sealing

The Far North District Council prioritises road sealing based on criteria that rank the impacts of road dust according to the number of houses impacted and severity, as well as economic and other benefits.

Non-subsidised sealing

The Far North District Council uses the Dust Matrix tool to prioritise and select its road sealing programme based on the best information available at the time. This includes considering other works nearby and cost savings that may be possible by co-ordinating this work.

Subsidised sealing

The criteria to qualify for the Waka Kotahi subsidy only uses 11 of the 22 criteria in the Dust Matrix. Therefore, roads may be ranked differently when trying to gain funding assistance from Waka Kotahi.

We need to prioritise which roads we spend funding on in a fair and transparent way, so the greatest number of people enjoy the benefits of roading improvements. We have developed a matrix which ranks unsealed roads according to clear, measurable criteria.

In 2019, the council approved the use of the Dust Matrix prioritisation tool to help inform decision making for seal extensions. The Dust Matrix measures 22 criteria that inform the rankings on more than 1,840 road sites across the District (about 40,500 data records).

Dust Matrix criteria include:

  • Types and numbers of traffic movements and speeds
  • The number of homes, schools, marae and community facilities (e.g., churches, health centres) nearby and the distance between these buildings and roads
  • Ecological and horticultural areas
  • The terrain and wind exposure (e.g., open plains, sheltered by hills)
  • The function of the road i.e., is it a tourism road or disaster resilience road?
  • Whether the road is a significant detour or is used by forestry traffic and heavy vehicles

An algorithm ranks the roads using these criteria from FNDC Road Rating #1 (highest priority for sealing) through to Rating #1,840 (lowest priority for sealing).

We have measured the distance between 6000 homes and unsealed roads, so the matrix gives higher priority to roads where homes are closer to the road and the dust nuisance is more acute. We have also recorded all marae located along unsealed roads. The ranking of sites is not absolute, as data is continually updated. From time to time, the council draws a line in the sand using the data available to select sites for the construction season ahead.

Download or view the Dust Matrix here.

The Far North District Council has a limited budget for the application of dust suppression products on unsealed road sections during summer months. The Dust Matrix is used to select dust suppression sites based on four criteria:

  • Target building is within 25m from the road
  • More than 130 vehicles per day
  • More than 30 trucks per day
  • Vehicle speed assessed at more than 65kph

We have identified over 150 sites across the district that meet dust suppression criteria. Dust suppression compounds are a temporary solution for road dust that bond with road dust but do not make the road surface slippery. It has a lifespan of around three months and is applied before Christmas. The council works with the forestry industry to co-fund the application of dust suppression products along key harvest routes.

Questions and answers

The roads are selected according to the prioritisation criteria in the Dust Matrix, to achieve the greatest benefit for people in our district. The Dust Matrix ensures that the decisions are made fairly and objectively according to the data, and not by individuals. Our elected members have endorsed the matrix as a prioritisation tool for deciding which roads we seal.

Once funding is approved we will publish the confirmed seal extensions on the Seal Extensions webpage.

The ranking of sites is not fixed – it does change from time to time, as the data is continually updated. You can download or view a copy of the ranked roads as at July 2021 here

Logging trucks can cause significant dust nuisances for residents on unsealed roads in areas where forestry companies are harvesting pine plantations. We are working closely with the forestry industry and aligning their harvest activities with the matrix, so that roads where logging is planned are given higher priority for seal extensions. In some cases, it is more cost-effective to use temporary solutions to suppress dust. The council works with the forestry industry to co-fund the application of dust suppression products along key harvest routes.

Yes, you can. The council has a policy in place to support communities who wish to fund the sealing of their road. Visit the Community Initiated Infrastructure - Roading Contribution Policy for more information.

You can get in touch with us to request maintenance here.

Last updated: 02 Apr 2024 4:34pm