Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Candidates weigh in on roading issues (+video)

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In the third in a series on key election issues for Rotorua, senior reporter Matthew Martin takes a look at roading around the district.
As one of Rotorua Lakes Council's core services, roading and road maintenance is an ongoing challenge for council staff and contractors.

The council's transport and waste solutions director Stavros Michael said to keep the roading network in good working order the council was constantly renewing roads at a rate of about 8 per cent of the entire network each year.

In the last financial year the council spent $18 million on local roads - which do not include state highways such as Old Taupo Rd or Te Ngae Rd that are maintained by the New Zealand Transport Agency - $10 million on operational expenditure and maintenance and $8 million on new capital expenditure.

The council also receives about $6 million in subsidies from the government each year for its roading network.

"For the last three years funding for roading infrastructure has basically remained steady with little variation.

"Like a house, if you don't paint it regularly or maintain things like a roof, there comes a point in time when you have to replace a whole wall or the whole roof. It's the same for our roading network.

"We see the urban roading network as another public space so there is continual tension between creating a safe environment for children and families and traffic flow and economic considerations."

The council maintains more than 1000km of local and rural roads in the district and allows for about 4km of rural roads to be sealed each year with 80km of local roads scheduled to be resurfaced in the 2017/17 financial year.

"In terms of access to the city for things like economic development, freight, tourism and so on, we need to have some very good connections from the east and Tauranga and from the south and the north, into the city."

He said Rotorua had an interesting and somewhat complicated mixture of local roads and state highways running through Rotorua's urban areas.

He said the council had to work closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to make sure state highways, that were also linked to the council's urban roading network, were properly maintained.

"All our efforts with NZTA is to make sure those state highways into Rotorua are kept at a high standard and that they are fit for purpose.

He said Te Ngae Rd had been left on the backburner for many years because of the REA (Rotorua Eastern Arterial) designation that was lifted after 60 years earlier this year.

"That designation became a barrier to doing anything on Te Ngae."

Rotorua's seven mayoral candidates give their thoughts on roading in the district.

Dr Reynold Macpherson:

The current roading policy is a shambles and alienates potential investors, in my view.

In my opinion it was a strategic blunder to cancel the Eastern Arterial designation, instead of negotiating a settlement in the public interest, or getting a fair determination from the Environment Court.

NZTA switched hundreds of millions elsewhere and Te Ngae Rd gets worse by the day.

Cancelling the Victoria Arterial led to property sales that were not used to settle the debts incurred when they were bought.

Rob Kent:

Having travelled and lived in major cities around the world I have always believed that Rotorua's "traffic problems" are largely of its own making.

I have never seen such badly designed roundabouts anywhere - designed to congest traffic flow and slow it down, instead of smooth traffic flow which is their true function.

Ngongotaha and Tarawera roundabouts are classic examples of this, easily fixed with slip-lanes and/or flyovers if necessary.

I believe that too much ratepayer money is being wasted on projects such as the library/health hub, and not nearly enough on core business such as sealing rural roads.

Frances Louis:

Rotorua's great love for their preferred mode of transport is the petrol/diesel fuelled waka.

I ask for healthy maintained footpaths (no glyphosate sprays) and roads to match our healthy green transition to a Kiwi commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.

Mark Gould:

I believe the state of our roads are appalling and far too much work has been deferred in the past few years.

The community has approximately 135km of unsealed rural roads and the current plan to seal 4km a year means that it will take more than 30 years to seal them all.

Rural roading will be a priority to my council, as will the flow of traffic at the Ngongotaha roundabout.

The increase in traffic on Te Ngae Rd will be addressed with a view to finding an appropriate and urgent long-term solution.

Steve Chadwick:

Investment in roading is a vital spend to both connect people, ensure safety on our roads and meet the growth we predict.

State roading priorities are decided regionally and we need our fair share.

Investment to fix a major blackspot, the Te Puia/Hemo Rd roundabout and now stage one of the Te Ngae Rd upgrade is underway.

We need four-laning from Sala St to the airport and we are developing that business case.

We estimate that to be at least $100 million for which we have $12.4 million.

We spent $6.58 million on local roading infrastructure last year, 98 per cent of budget.

Promises to seal more rural roads will cost an extra $4 million we don't have.

RangiMarie Kingi:

Roading is one of the many layered matters arising for address that need attention by understanding matters and finding the order of roading maintenance importance.

What we don't want is to be ruined like Tauranga with mass highways of tar seal.

Let's get back to locals deciding practical roads for evolution.

John Rakei-Clark:

The Te Ngae Rd congestion must be addressed and I will conduct an investigation of the possibilities and work from there.

This work has been on the books for council to address for far too long now. I will take a look at the stumbling blocks, the things that have halted progress in the past and see if we can overcome them.

Sound barriers will also be looked at for the area surrounding the proposed highway.
If Te Arawa have any ideas, I would be to pleased to hear them.

Rotorua Lakes Council is responsible for:
- More than 1000km of roads
- 660km of footpaths
- 3783 culverts
- 5000 street lights
- More than 110 bus shelters
- About 140km of rural roads currently unsealed.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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