Ratepayers may face new road bill

By Lawrence Gullery

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Hastings ratepayers could be forced to pick up the tab for extra funding needed to keep the district's roads up to scratch or face letting the network deteriorate because of a shortfall in government funding.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has rejected a proposal from Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, which involved the agency paying back a $3 million loan Hastings District Council wanted to take out, to top up its $6 million road maintenance programme in the next three years.

The council initially expected NZTA to fund half its $6 million roading programme but the money wasn't allocated when the agency set its three-year budget in 2012. Mr Yule this week made a last attempt to achieve the funding by suggesting the council take out a debt-funded loan and NZTA repay it at the end of the three-year term. The plan was rejected by the agency yesterday.

NZTA regional director Jenny Chetwynd said the agency would not pay back a loan outside of its National Land Transport Programme, which was developed with regional transport committees around the country, including Hawke's Bay's.

Ms Chetwynd said the agency believed the council's road team would be able to manage the network "to an acceptable level of service" within available funding.

Council asset management group manager David Fraser said the level of NZTA funding available meant the council was no longer running its network at an optimal balance between maintenance and renewals.

"... and the increased funding that will eventually result will fall on the shoulders of ratepayers," Mr Fraser said. He said reduced funding would have "very serious long-term effects" for the district.

"It is believed that, with good practice and the prudent use of resources, council will be able to manage these effects over a three- to five-year period but that will become much more difficult in the following years.

"A lack of appropriate renewal investment will result in a rise in complaints from the public as maintenance demands continued to grow and the cost of the road renewal programme when it is eventually reinstated will be higher."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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