Reviewing the past three years

Published on 30 June 2022

Ann Court (Deputy Mayor)

It’s hard to believe that there is now a little more than three months before the next council election. Residents who are enrolled will begin receiving voting papers in the mail from 16 September and election day will be on 8 October.

With that in mind, I think the time is right to look back on some of the key issues, challenges and wins we’ve had as a district over the past triennium. A lot has happened, so this column may be the first of several to review the events of the past three years.

Without doubt, one of the biggest triumphs for me personally was completion of the Waipapa roundabout. The official opening of this road safety project was held in September last year, but the roundabout itself had been in operation for at least a year before that. While Far North District Council did have some input into its construction, such as upgrading stormwater systems, credit for this project must go to Waka Kotahi. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement when the roundabout was finally completed. For me, this was the end of a 30-year journey that began in 1989 after I witnessed a near miss at what had become a notoriously dangerous intersection. The subsequent campaign to improve safety there was one reason I became a local politician. It also taught me more than I thought possible about our roading infrastructure and how it is funded. The Waipapa Corridor Project included new parking, footpaths and a links to commercial areas and has been transformative for Waipapa with several retail and other developments now underway. But the real win has been dramatically improved safety for drivers.

One of the top complaints that councillors get from residents is the poor state of our unsealed district roads. We’d all like to see these roads sealed, but our limited budget means that very few will be. Deciding which sections are sealed is not easy and there has long been a perception that getting your road sealed depends upon how well you can lobby councillors – ‘the squeaky wheel gets oiled’.

In 2019, we adopted a dust matrix prioritisation tool. By applying 22 criteria to more than 1,840 Far North roads, the matrix uses an algorithm to cross reference around 40,500 data points. This produces a list of roads most in need of sealing or dust suppression. Criteria includes the number of vehicles using a road; the number of homes, schools, marae and other community facilities on that road; whether it’s a forestry route; geology; and much more. The tool ensures that roading decisions are fair, transparent, consistent, and free from political influence. It has now been adopted by Northland Transportation Alliance, which means the system is being applied across Northland. I’m proud that we developed this tool and that it is being copied elsewhere. You can see how your road scores and where it sits on the priority list by searching for the Dust Matrix on the FNDC website.