Whanganui's $20 million roading headache

By Simon Waters -
2 comments
Commercial logging is playing havoc with Whanganui's roads.
Commercial logging is playing havoc with Whanganui's roads.

Forestry trucks are ripping up Whanganui's rural and suburban roads - and ratepayers may have to foot the bill.

The district council faces a $20 million shortfall over the next 10 years and has effectively run out of money to complete its roading programme.

And the situation is being blamed on damage caused by logging trucks.

The roading budget may need to be topped up from general rates "sooner rather than later", manager Mark Hughes told Tuesday's infrastructure and special projects committee.

Council has "robbed Peter to pay Paul" by putting less urgent projects on hold, he said.

"We basically don't have the money to carry out the body of works we should be doing. The pressure is coming from the increase in heavy forestry-related commercial vehicles."

About $200,000 needs to be spent on Eastown Road which will not survive the winter without urgent repairs, he said.

Another $100,000 has already been spent on Okoia and Marangi road repairs, with about $500,000 of scheduled road works deferred as a result.
And the situation will get worse.

Forestry activity is expected to increase from next year as blocks planted in 1994 start to be harvested. Mr Hughes said funding shortfalls would become greater and council could not keep deferring work as the roads would become unusable.

Changes to funding from New Zealand Transport Agency also means council will, at best, receive the same level of road funding over the next three years, as the Government seeks a 20 per cent saving in roading costs.

Mr Hughes urged councillors to decide if and how they will charge the forestry business to get some of the money back. It was an issue that had been discussed for many years without resolution.

"There has been workshop after workshop after workshop with no decisions," Mr Hughes said. The matter was now urgent.

Committee chairman Alan Taylor said previous councils had no taste for dealing with the issue. "It took the rural community board 10 years to get anybody to recognise there was a problem out there."

Helen Craig said there was not enough guidance coming from council management and requested councillors be given a timeline of important dates and options. "We need something concrete to work to."

Mr Hughes said officers would prepare a more detailed report.

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