Doing it for ourselves

Published on 29 July 2021

Ann Court (Deputy Mayor)

In my last column, I shared my disappointment that Government funding for maintenance of our roading network had again fallen well short of what we need in the Far North. The Council requested over $105 million for our local roads and $5.6 million for road safety promotion from the National Land Transport Programme over the next three years. While Waka Kotahi agreed to almost all the road safety budget, it allocated just $88.4 million for maintenance. Government agencies acknowledged this will have negative impacts, including more road injuries and deaths. I know you are as frustrated as I am about this, and I assure you I will continue to raise this with the Government and campaign to get more road funding for the Far North.

But it’s not all bad news on the roading front. I am pleased that six of our rural roads will get seal extensions over the next three years under the Council’s Priority Seal Extensions Programme. This is a programme we began in 2019 to ensure sections of roads that had missed out on Waka Kotahi funding were sealed. This is about doing it for ourselves where we believe the need is critical. Last week, the Infrastructure Committee approved a $6.17 million programme of unsubsidised road sealing work for Brass Road, Ahipara (2021/22); Parapara-Toatoa Road, Taipā (2021/22); Oromāhoe Road, Oromāhoe (2022/23); Pawarenga Road, Pawarenga (2022/23); West Coast Road, Kohukohu (2022/23); Ruaroa Road, Rangitihi (2023/24); and Hautapu Road, Moerewa (2023/24). All the six new sections of seal will be over 1km in length, while almost 3km of new seal is due to be added to Ruaroa Road. I know that residents along these roads will be hugely relieved that summer road dust will be a thing of the past. Understandably, others will be wondering when their road might be sealed. For reasons of fairness, consistency and transparency, these decisions are not made by elected members. Instead, Northland Transportation Alliance staff select the roads using a prioritisation matrix. This ranks each road based on criteria such as traffic volumes, the number of residents on each road, the presence of schools, marae and other community facilities, and how significantly they are impacted by road dust. We have been refining this matrix since 2019 and I believe it is best way to allocate scarce resources where we have an almost inexhaustible demand.

Deciding which roads to seal is contentious and all elected members have been involved in these debates. No one would be more familiar with these than The Northland Age editor Peter Jackson. Stories about Far North roads have, and will continue to be, a staple for the paper. Unfortunately, we are losing his knowledge of these debates. After a remarkable 44-year career with the paper, Peter is retiring as editor. I want to acknowledge his years of dedication to Kaitāia and the Far North and thank him for his mahi. His insightful editorials will continue, and I look forward to reading more of these.