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Provincial councils not happy over roads.

Written By: - Date published: 1:38 pm, June 30th, 2014 - 38 comments
Categories: greens, labour, local government, national, Politics, public transport, same old national, transport - Tags: , , ,

I’m always surprised at how short a memory many media have. For instance at Radio NZ on Morning Report I saw this dumb description..

Provincial mayors not happy despite extra money ( 3′ 11″ )

06:39 Some provincial mayors are feeling hard done by, despite a National Party promise of an extra 212-million-dollars for improvements to regional roading projects.

Ah yes. For some strange reason these ungrateful buggers, who have probably been in office for quite some time, are upset at being given $212 million for projects in the rural heartlands of the country if they elect a National led government.

Of course that is hardly surprising. Back in 2009/10, the National government tore billions of dollars from the rural roading budgets to put into their “Roads of National Significance” vanity projects of dubious and usually detrimental economic value. In the current “review”, they are tearing billions more and expecting the small ratepayer base in provincial councils to pay for the road maintenance, effectively increasing the subsidy to trucks.

This means that since then, not only have new rural roading projects been curtailed, but so has the maintenance on the existing ones.

For instance here is Michael Laws in 2009, then mayor for Whanganui…

In August, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said total land transport programme spending would rise by 17 percent over the next three years.

But Mr Laws said today the Government had significantly cut subsidies for local roading works in the regions to fund projects in the cities. Wanganui would have to cut about $6.5 million from its roading budget over the next three years.

Wanganui might have to abandon rural road maintenance, cycleway development and cut back on road safety improvements, he said.

Other provinces had also been hit.

“In the Hawke’s Bay, I understand that something like $17 million worth of budgeted works will now not happen,” Mr Laws said.

Kaipara’s mayor in 2010…

Kaipara’s mayor, Neil Tiller, says in his area he could be millions short of what was promised – which in his area is a very big deal.

His district council planned to spend $22.91m on its roads in 2010/11. He says that NZTA approved $17.34m. Furthermore, there is another $1.4m in doubt due to further Government cutbacks.

Kaipara Mayor complains: “ We could be $6.9m short. This is a large lump to cut out of a $22.9m budget.”

He said his complaint wasn’t with NZTA as it carries out government policy – but with the Government which decided to change roading funding shifting the focus and money from rural roading networks onto urban roads.

“We will be taking this matter up with the Government, including the Minister of Transport, to ensure it knows the impact it is having on rural roads.

That funding has never been restored except in microscopic dribs and drabs. The funding that used to go towards maintaining these roads for the farming communities and for the national good has been largely held for a pile of roads in urban and near urban areas, that generally urban areas neither need nor want.

Provincial NZ should listen to the outright anger in the cities. We’re not getting much that is useful from the funding for RONS. A motorway that extends to Warkworth does nothing for most people in Auckland and never will. Our congestion is inside the city.

For instance in Auckland where I live, outside of the SH20 project that started under Labour, it is hard to think of any roading project in Auckland that should be prioritized over the much cheaper public transport upgrades. Most of the “RONS” programmes seem to have been targeted for the benefit of land developers rather than urban dwellers.

And then when you look at what National is targeting with it’s new “Roads of Political Significance” policy, they aren’t going to the provincial councils with a need to maintain a decaying roading network. They going to subsidize trucking companies with bigger trucks. I guess that must be the new investment opportunity for National MPs?

But there is nothing that I can see in that policy for simply maintaining and improving the roads that councils run.

So now to that broadcast of the mayors “complaining”.
[audio: http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20140630-0639-provincial_mayors_not_happy_despite_extra_money-048.mp3 ]

Ah yes. Hardly surprising they are unhappy.

…At present we receive a 58% subsidy for most of our roads, and that will be eroded closer to a 53%, that is just a direct transfer of costs from the government to the ratepayer…

This is almost entirely due to National sucking more money from provincial roading to put into roads that are of significance to them.

…says there is a real chance of some tarseal roads being returned to gravel if extra money isn’t found soon.

Indeed.

Labour’s general transport policy will probably be to cut excessive funding for the “Roads of Significance only to National” and return the provincial roading budgets. In the cities to steadily reduce the congestion, not by simply building new roads, but by a combination of facilitation public transport and mostly improving existing roads and rail.

This isn’t going to be that incompatible with that of the Greens, who also want more public transport and shifting to more sustainable modes of transport like rail. Quite what they would do with rural trucks is a bit of a mystery?

Perhaps provincial NZ will like examine its other voting options? Because they aren’t getting much from National apart from rate increases and deteriorating roads.

38 comments on “Provincial councils not happy over roads. ”

  1. ianmac 1

    So instead of a Governmental Nanny State, we have to put up with Robbing Hoods whose operation is to steal millions from the Provinces then generously give back tiny bits of their own millions. Another Ponzi Scheme? Sleight of hand?
    Thank goodness we have a vibrant MSM who will examine the credibility of election bribes. Not!

  2. Lanthanide 2

    Latest news: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10215096/Govt-fixes-bridge-then-replaces-it

    The Government has almost finished a $100,000 project to strengthen a bridge it will now tear down and replace as part of its new roading package.

    “They’ve just spent 100 grand to future proof it for 25 years,” Caddie said.

    “Even the local industry people here are saying that it’s not an issue for them, they don’t ever have to wait on that bridge and there’s never been an accident on it so they’d rather see the money going into other priorities.”

    The $3m to $5m cost to replace the bridge, with construction due to start next year, was a “massive investment while there’s other more pressing priorities in the region”.

    Seems this policy launch has been a flop, didn’t take long!

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Sounds like the $100k was a great investment while the several millions on the new, unneeded bridge, will be a hand out to National’s road building mates.

      • Macro 2.1.1

        It’s all to do with subsidising their big trucking mates.The upgraded bridges are needed for the new massive trucks National has just approved to damage our already overtrucked roads -after kickbacks (donations from the truckers).
        So the general population has to fork out again to subsidise these greedy bastards.
        Sooner they are out the better.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1

          Rational pricing via road user charges on all vehicles on the road will soon see the trucks gone. They really wouldn’t be able to compete with rail and sea.

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1.1

            Yeah a progressive govt could pull it off but only with the media on side and only if you can stop a total truck blockade of downtown Queen St and Parliament grounds.

            The Tories have serious power inside or outside of govt.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, it’s amazing how much power the Tories can get to help destroy society so that the rich can get richer. It’s also amazing that the people who the Tories get to do that dirty work will be the ones made worse off by their actions.

            • Once was Tim 2.1.1.1.1.2

              “……and only if you can stop a total truck blockade of downtown Queen St and Parliament grounds.”

              Hasn’t Jude already set a bit of a precedent with ‘boy racers’ ?

              Just pass a law so that if anyone intentionally obstructs the public highway, their vehicles are confiscated and crushed. No problem! :p (Consistency – goose and gander and all that)

  3. aerobubble 3

    Its coal shouts National. After coal deaths, the unsellable coal company share, then the coal company debt, and now the coal company layoffs. We get its timber! Of course Kiwis don’t vote so can’t stop National stealing off with the grubs growing off the rotting trees, no wonder Kiwi numbers keep falling. Same story worldwide, Humans keep encroaching on the last pristine areas.

    Look don’t get me wrong. Like Hooten. Who believes that Greens are against mining, growth, etc. There not. Greens are against big corporate mining, big corporate growth, etc. Because Greens know it just supports big foreign corporate profits at the expense of our rivers, our Kiwis, our resources, etc.

    National is addicted to profit at any cost, so addicted they’re now doing the ACC levy rises, then ACC levy drop just before the election trick with roads now.

    [lprent: That barely has anything to do with this post? WTF!]

    • I don’t know, the last six words kind of are.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2

      I think Aerobubble is calling attention to the fact that National Party policy closely resembles knee-jerk incompetence, the wrong solutions to non-existent problems, and this latest embarrassment is more of the same.

  4. William 4

    Even the Road Transport Forum are unhappy

    “However the body representing trucking operators says funding for roads should be decided by established processes, not a political lolly scamble in election year.

    Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said “election year lolly scramble” is disturbing though the substance is good.”

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/248492/road-money-fails-to-convince-mayors

  5. fambo 5

    In the semi-rural area I live, around 40 percent of our council rates go on maintaining roads, and there is always a demand for sealing even more gravel roads. People buy a property on a gravel road and then complain that it is not sealed. This is despite a huge growth in the number of giant utes people I driving.
    I argue that all none main arterial roads should be left to return to gravel, which has its own charm and is quite adequate provided you don’t speed. And road sides should be left to grow into long grass that can be used as pasture for farmers, saving the expense of workers cutting the verges.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      “saving the expense of workers cutting the verges.”

      Sounds like a good way to drive up unemployment.

  6. Kevin Welsh 6

    What I find interesting about this, is a story related to me by one of my right leaning brothers. He was at some closed invitation event a couple of years ago where the guest speaker was Bill English.

    English then spelt out in his speech that, at the time, New Zealand had around $160 Billion in assets but an income to maintain only $120 Billion.

    So, what’s changed?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      The question presupposes that English was telling the truth and your brother understood then relayed his meaning correctly, and you did the same.

      Can you find any reference to English saying this?

    • Brendon Harre 6.2

      Kevin my guess is that Bill English said this to stop the group asking/demanding for better public owned assets. Given rural based councils spend half of their rates on roads they were probably asking for better, faster and safer roads. To say NZ cannot maintain these assets is stupid. I wrote the following recently

      “I work in healthcare, an area the government spends a lot of money on ($14.5 billion), much more than it does on transport ($3.1 billion). As a country we provide this care because we collectively agree it is the right thing to do. Fair enough. I wish we also had that attitude to transport and housing infrastructure too.

      I think it is such small-mind thinking; the belief that the best way forward for New Zealand is that government should stick to business as usual, wait for a surplus to accrue and then give it out as tax cuts to favoured groups of voters. When that surplus could be used to improve transport and housing infrastructure for the benefit of us all.” (No.9 http://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/70493/fridays-top-10-brendon-harr%25C3%25A9-national-vs-labour-housing-affordability-uk-councils-spy- )

    • greywarbler 6.3

      @ Kevin W
      Are these assets very high-demand types? What asset exactly. Was he referring to roads and bridges assets? There are many types of assets. That was a comment by English, an opinion that he served up with the chippies, and should not be taken as gospel or near, until the official figures are produced.

      • Kevin Welsh 6.3.1

        Sorry for the late reply.

        The way I understood it, he was talking about assets in general. Roads, schools, hospitals etc. But the general thrust was in regards to roads. Southland has a very high percentage of sealed secondary roads and the relevant Council/s are struggling just to keep up with the maintenance.

        • greywarbler 6.3.1.1

          @ Kelvin.
          Thanks. It is hard to keep up with replies when real life is calling! I feel Bill English and others like him are pulled two ways. One is the difficulty in understanding that a giant company, perhaps even some private equities, earn as much each year as our whole country.

          And on the other hand, the Finance Minister will run the line to the citizens that the country is like your household and we are being prudent like you and don’t borrow, waste money, gamble, be profligate (that’s for those with advanced vocabularies) and generally soft soap and appeal ingenuously to the ordinary voter.

          He no doubt is good at all presentations of the economy as he has been in Treasury.
          Treasury-speak is a bit like preaching from the Bible, one is never wrong. And if two disagree, there is the Good Book to refer to as authority. In the Treasury’s case they probably keep their options open with Riccardo, Hayek, Friedman (not Kinky).
          Others?

  7. greywarbler 7

    It’s sort of amusing to hear Ken Shirley of the Trucks R Us lobby comment on the obvious. It appears that he has been stymied from getting all they want for three years.
    However the body representing trucking operators says funding for roads should be decided by established processes, not a political lolly scamble in election year.
    Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said “election year lolly scramble” is disturbing though the substance is good.

    Meanwhile outside Whangarei a big felling of trees has resulted in continuous log trucks going over simple country roads to the ports.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/244183/dust-up-over-log-trucks-on-gravel-road
    A school bus-driver in Northland says she worries every day about the safety of her young passengers, because of log trucks on gravel roads.
    Beckie Nathan was taking part in a protest hikoi in Whangarei on Tuesday, organised by Pipwai people fed up with the dust clouds created by the big forestry rigs.

    She says in her 33-years as a bus driver and trainer, she’s never had to work in such hazardous conditions.
    Mrs Nathan says she’s forced to stop when she sees a log truck coming towards her bus, because she can see nothing until the big dust cloud clears, and that’s especially dangerous on corners….

    Whangarei District Council says it can’t afford to seal the gravel roads even though they are now being used intensively by logging trucks, and need constant grading.
    It says the Government has cut the funding subsidies available for new seal.
    Northland National MP Mike Sabin says Northland councils set their own roading priorities, and they would stand a better chance of securing more funding if they worked together on a business case.

    People power requires patient stickability and eventually demands.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=11254649
    In her submission at the council chambers yesterday, group spokeswoman Alex Wright urged Mayor Sheryl Mai and her councillors to lobby the Government in an election year for about $9 million needed to tarseal the roads.
    Ms Wright asked the mayor and her councillors whether they’d put up with the dust and said last week a resident in Pipiwai counted 80 trucks travelling through the roads in a day.
    The group played a television news clip from February last year that showed residents voicing concern about the level of dust and Ms Wright said they were still eating and breathing dust.
    eputy Mayor Sharon Morgan said it was not just a problem for the Government and suggested a long-term solution in collaboration with territorial authorities and the Northland Regional Council.
    A protester said if the council had sealed 500m strips over a decade, the entire road would have been tarsealed by now.

    The mayor asked Ms Wright whether the group was prepared to look at a targeted rate to fund the tarsealing and the latter replied she needed to discuss it with her members.

    Yet in 2008 –
    http://tvnz.co.nz/content/1886399/425823/article.html
    Truck drivers plan to invade central city roads from 7am claiming they will struggle to pay increased road user charges.
    The protest by the truck drivers is expected to bring traffic in many parts of the country to a standstill, with police warning motorists to either get to work before 7.30am or take the day off….

    Truckies say a surprise hike in road user charges two days ago was the last straw. The increase of between 7% and 10% has been imposed to help with the damage large trucks do to the country’s roads.
    And transport operators say the increase in cost may be passed on to consumers with the freight business getting more and more expensive and the government’s increases on Road User Charges doing nothing to ease the pressure

  8. Brendon Harre 8

    What if Labour/Greens agreed to devolve some taxation power (petrol tax or road user charges for instance) to Regional authorities so they didn’t need a subsidy from Wellington?

    “At present we receive a 58% subsidy for most of our roads, and that will be eroded closer to a 53%, that is just a direct transfer of costs from the government to the ratepayer… ”

    Then the regions wouldn’t need this weird John Key pork barrel funding and the various regions could decide for themselves what their transport priorities are?

    Does regional development come from a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ process?

  9. fisiani 9

    Labour passed a bill for more taxes. what a surprise. National s spending on roads is very popular.

    • dv 9.1

      Who raised the current petrol tax?

      • Lanthanide 9.1.1

        National. 3 times, to make sure that their 2012/2013 budget forecast would show a surplus in 2015.

        They raised GST as well.

        And have pushed back substantially reducing the ACC levy as part of car registration till next year, to insure that their 2013/2014 budget forecast would show a surplus in 2015.

        They’ve racked up an unprecedented $60B in national debt.

        National: the party of tax, borrow, and spend.

    • lprent 9.2

      Popular with whom? I have seen little evidence of that.

  10. Brendon Harre 10

    Lanthanide and fisiani I am not suggesting extra taxes rather that existing taxes are transferred from Wellington to the various Regional Councils so that decisions are made by a fair local democratic process not by John Key who is more interested in vote buying than achieving any fair/efficient transport spending. Read http://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/70493/fridays-top-10-brendon-harr%25C3%25A9-national-vs-labour-housing-affordability-uk-councils-spy- to understand more of what I mean.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      Technically we have two tax systems. Rates for local government and then the main taxes for central government. There’s two immediate problems with the present system:

      1. Local government has very few avenues for raising more taxes and
      2. The central government gets to tax pretty much everything

      This results in the local government often not having enough to do what it needs to do and thus having to go to central government for top ups. A good example of this is Auckland transport. Auckland has paid out far more over the years in taxes to central government than what’s been spent on her roads. When Auckland started building up her public transport system after decades of neglect she had to go to central government to get funding. Initially, under a Labour led government, the funding was available but the present National led government said no to funding the CRL.

      If Auckland received all of the funding from taxes that her roads produce then she would have easily been able to afford the necessary rail upgrades and probably would have had it mostly working by now. Of course, all the roads across the rest of the country would have sucked as they wouldn’t have got anywhere near the funding that they received.

      Labour’s law that allowed local councils to add 10c per litre to fuel left the present centralised funding in place while also giving local councils the ability to do projects that they thought were necessary. The present system had to be left in place because, quite frankly, our national roading system doesn’t actually get enough funding despite paying for itself and that funding is going to decrease over time as people drive less. That’s the reason why Auckland generally pays out more than they get.

      Anyway, the ‘fix’ for this little peccadillo is to allow local councils to broaden their tax base from it’s present limited scope to be able to include such things as local sales taxes etc etc.

      Basically, to be able to fund the government services that we want taxes have to go up rather than down as they have been doping for the last 30 years.

      • Brendon Harre 10.1.1

        Thanks Draco T Bastard. I think we have a centralised funding system because the cities -not just Auckland are subsidising the rural provinces. Effectively the government is subsidising farmers through the backdoor. If we went to a decentralised system that subsidy would be obvious. But it needs not be that expensive to allow regional areas to fund their own transport spend. Doubling transport spending would still mean transport spending is a lot less than big ticket items such as healthcare, education and social welfare.

        Transport spending would give us a lot of productivity benefits. See http://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/70493/fridays-top-10-brendon-harr%25C3%25A9-national-vs-labour-housing-affordability-uk-councils-spy-

        “Additionally, for 25 French cities, a 10% increase in average commuting speed, all other things remaining constant, increases the size of the labor market by 15 to 18%.

        In the US, Melo et al. show that the productivity effect of accessibility, measured by an increase in wages, is correlated to the number of jobs per worker accessible within a 60 minute commuting range. The maximum impact on wages is obtained when the number of jobs accessible within 20 minutes increases; within this travel time, a doubling in the number of jobs results in an increase in real wages of 6.5%. Beyond 20 minutes of travel time, worker productivity still increases, but its rate decays and practically disappears beyond 60 minutes.”

    • greywarbler 10.2

      Brendon Harre
      I like my idea of dividing up GST. We have had 15% imposed on us. I would like to see 5% of each GST $ go back to the region in which it was spent. And those who are using a region’s facilities will provide a bit more funding there. It wouldn’t replace other help but it would be automatic, and not have to be grovelled for.

      Northland, Far North, for instance as it works to attract more tourist business would get a return on their $ spending and with all other from locals or visitors. Which local government could use to assist with whatever infrastructure was most urgent and valuable to them.

      Northland has big needs at present for roads to be tar sealed for logging trucks. Central government should be helping with this say 75%-25% as it is a major problem. That is what we have central government for, to assist in the good running of the country economically and socially.

      But the GST offshoot would be a great putea to fight over locally and its use would be greatly contested, locally, but the availability of it could not be contested by central government.

  11. Brendon Harre 11

    This isn’t exactly transport related but it does involve local government, so I think it is part of a wider system that needs reforming.

    “Key says local government legislative reforms to development contributions on hold until after election; Key sees NZ$ a “fickle beast” and likely to fall” story by Bernard Hickey http://www.interest.co.nz/news/70715/key-says-local-government-legislative-reforms-development-contributions-hold-until-after-#comment-780727

    This is shockingly bad from Key. He has been promising policies to bring in affordable housing since 2008. Now he is saying he has run out of time. What a useless…… Worse he thinks he can hold us poor sheeple to ransom, efffectively saying ‘if you don’t vote for me you will never get those affordable housing policies….’

    Did I mention that John Key is better at manipulating voters…..

  12. tc 12

    Does this explain what seems to be a fall in the quality and amount of maintenance on rural roads. Some work gets done every year now when it used to go for years as it stayed in good nick.

    I know some folk are constantly in councils ear about roads now dangerous and full of holes that up till 4 years ago were ok.

    you can see where council boundaries are by looking at some rural back roads now as priorties have clearly shifted for some councils.

    • Brendon Harre 12.1

      Yes. Councils are being squeezed but the rural ones do not speak out because of misguided loyalty to National. Not that this loyalty helps them, Key doesn’t care any more about farming/ country areas. It is all about #Team Key prancing around the ‘big stage’ -coffee at the Whitehouse, tea at Buckingham Palace …….. And he will manipulate any situation so he can keep doing it.

  13. greywarbler 13

    @Brendon H
    I think we have a centralised funding system because the cities -not just Auckland are subsidising the rural provinces. Effectively the government is subsidising farmers through the backdoor.

    Cities subsidising rural? The point is sensible distribution of resources and ensuring that the areas producing our national income and having businesses that provide jobs to those in the region are enabled with adequate roading and rail and coastal and trans-Tasman shipping even. The farmers say that their work and production provides the nation’s income and supports cities and that cannot be argued. As things are at present, because we have been finagled out of our balanced economy by industry leaders and their political stooges.

    It is obvious.that we have a monopolistic economy with dairy supporting the country, assisted by other colonial-developing country type extractive, primary businesses, logging, mining, and fishing. Lack of strategic smart support for wool from growers, industry leaders, trade entrepreneurs and government means that sheep have diminished, and beef seems to rely on what the hamburger makers in the USA are paying.

    And Local Govt NZ President Lawrence Yule, stated I think that the regions have 50% of the nation’s roads and carry 88% of the traffic. I noticed that Mayors were pathetically grateful for getting anything and just happy that the regions were getting something.
    Nothing stronger than weak warm tea.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/248492/road-money-fails-to-convince-mayors

    And trying to find out what Local Government is thinking and saying I find that there are two publications. One is put out by the Local Government body – http://www.lgnz.co.nz/ and there also is an on-line option – http://lgol.co.nz/ .

    The other calls itself LG New Zealand Local Government but is a commercial proposition.
    http://localgovernmentmag.co.nz/about-us appears to be for people who want to know what’s going on so they can make money from them. Quite legitimate and useful but local government should have put a stop on their name being used before this magazine was started in 1964. Another example of those running our country being a bit slow on the uptake.

  14. Brendon Harre 14

    Greywarbler sorry about the delay in replying. Re GST I think dividing all GST receipts into local vs central authority would be impractical. Would it be based on where the consumer resides, the business resides or some judgement on where the transaction occurred? Collection costs would be huge.

    Petrol taxes are easy to divide because it would be based on the location of the gas station.

    I actually like the spirit of your question. I think the easiest way to devolve more taxes down to local authorities is through the PAYE system. Everyone can tick the box on where they reside and that local authority gets some PAYE. So virtually no extra collection cost.

    There are easy ways to transfer taxes away from Wellington and towards local authorities. I suspect the reason it doesn’t happen is due to power politics not anything else.

    ‘Cities subsidising rural areas’ came across not quite as I intended. I just meant that more petrol tax is collected in cities than they receive back in transport funding in comparison to rural areas. I have no problem with farmers and the contribution they make to the country. I would want our cities to be a little more efficient (and fair) so they can contribute too. So we could move on from the mono-economy you mentioned. I think one step to achieving this is to spend more transport money on our cities. I don’t want to deprive our regions so that means transport funding has to increase. It is in that spirit I wrote the following

    http://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/65197/brendon-harre-thinks-we-have-problem-poor-quality-and-inadequate-quantity-local-infras

    http://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/70493/fridays-top-10-brendon-harr%25C3%25A9-national-vs-labour-housing-affordability-uk-councils-spy-

    P.S the regions have far more roads than the cities and carry a lot less traffic.

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