Tight budget sees $10.5 million earmarked for roads

By Lindy Laird

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Acting Mayor Phil Halse said the programme was a reminder the council needed to reprioritise spending. Photo / John Stone
Acting Mayor Phil Halse said the programme was a reminder the council needed to reprioritise spending. Photo / John Stone

The recurring pain of budget cuts spurred robust discussion around the table but in the end Whangarei District Council had no choice but to approve a tight roading works programme.

The operations programme for 2013/14 was formally approved by the Infrastructure and Services Committee at Tuesday's meeting.

At $10.5 million, the maintenance spend is down by more than $2 million from $12.6 million in 2011/12, and down on last year's $10.7 million.

The resealing budget of $4.78 million would go on waterproofing and surface repairs on existing sealed roads to prolong their life.

In the past five years the council has averaged only 65km of resealing per annum, not the targeted 120km.

The rehabilitation programme, for sealed and unsealed roads, is $4.7 million, seal extensions $1.2 million, minor safety improvements $1.3 million, bridge replacement $1.96 million and cycleways $305,000.

The Southend and State Highway 1 intersection ($669,000) and kerb and channelling ($394,000) has been carried forward with funds allocated last year.

Councillors' debate about the situation ranged from whether senior staff were lobbying hard enough for Government subsidies to whether the meeting was the right time and place to "bellyache" about it.

The matter at hand was the works programme itself, several councillors reiterated. Merv Williams pointed out the issue was, "which jobs have priority - we had full discussion on the budget months and months ago."

Acting Mayor Phil Halse said the programme was a reminder the council needed to reprioritise spending but reorganising the Long Term Plan would not address the current urgent situation.

The council had to stop blaming central Government and start managing its own budget better, he said.

"I'm going to push for more money for roads," Mr Halse said.

"It used to be our biggest single expenditure."

Crichton Christie said, despite a $20 million deficit, the council had to address how it managed its capital works programme.

"Don't always bellyache about Transit [now New Zealand Transport Authority] not playing its part. We continually hear from staff what we can't afford but we can't keep screwing the spending on roads down or we'll have no roads left. They need maintaining."

Meanwhile, an amendment motioned by John Williamson was approved, requesting a staff report detailing how the council could set speed limits on the district's major feeder and through routes.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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