There are fears Dunedin could lose out to Auckland as a result of proposed changes to the way the New Zealand Transport Agency allocates funding for roading projects.
The concern was raised as councillors discussed a proposed change to the agency's financial assistance rate (FAR) at yesterday's Dunedin City Council infrastructure services committee meeting.
The FAR was used to determine how much money was allocated from the national land transport fund to help pay for roading projects around the country.
The agency was consulting councils as part of a review of proposed changes to the FAR, and planned to introduce any changes next year, ahead of the 2015-18 national funding round.
The details were contained in a report by council transportation operations programme engineer Michael Harrison to yesterday's meeting, which warned the changes could have implications for council budgets.
The review included considering whether FARs should be used to encourage particular activities or approaches, such as "land transport activities aimed at unlocking the future potential of an area".
That worried councillor Richard Thomson, who wondered whether the wording was "code for redirecting large quantities of it at Auckland transport issues".
Asked by Mr Thomson what the wording meant, Mr Harrison said council staff "don't have any idea" and the agency was not yet prepared to say.
That prompted councillor Lee Vandervis to conclude: "It would suggest that your suspicions have some weight, I would have thought."
Council operations general manager Tony Avery said it was already known funding for new roading work was constrained, with not enough money to go around.
As a result of the review, it was possible funding adjustments could come at the expense of "some rural centres or places south".
"That's a potential outcome of this process."
Mayor Dave Cull said, alternatively, it was possible the economic benefits of maintaining rural roads - used by dairy tankers, logging and sheep trucks - could be underscored when compared with Auckland's motorways.
The council planned to prepare a submission on the review outlining its concerns, to be prepared by council staff with help from Mr Cull and councillors Andrew Noone, Syd Brown and Kate Wilson.