Who would be a roading engineer? On the one hand you have the opportunity to design and build exciting new projects which contribute to the economy and the wellbeing of the community.
You are part of sod turning, big budgets, collaborative meetings, progress reports, milestone celebrations and the ultimate ribbon cutting. There's even the possibility of winning an award for various aspects of the project- it's a very rewarding career option.
On the other hand, even though you are surrounded by professionally qualified and highly skilled technical expertise, you have the whole collective advice of ordinary road users coming at you as we all know best about the rights and wrongs of the roads we drive on.
When the roads have a deficit of preventative maintenance expenditure, we collectively get grumpy and express our displeasure in the form of the current AA campaign about the state of Northland roads.
But it all comes down to money. How the Government balances its overall priorities, the need for new road construction, against modal shift, against the need to maintain the existing asset is a vexed question. This is in an environment where the revenue sourced from road user charges and excise tax is reducing, through active discouragement of driving and climate change alarm.
Northland has been the beneficiary of several new road construction projects in recent years not all of which have come from "Vote Transport". But those road cones all over the place, have inevitably caused a shift in focus away from routine and preventative maintenance expenditure on the existing asset.
Add to this the significant increase in traffic volumes, particularly of heavy traffic, and our roads are starting to tell us that they need a real boost of enhanced maintenance before they break down all together. You can only sweat the asset for so long.
Through the One Network Road Classification, all highways are categorised a certain way and each category is funded to deliver an expected level of service.
These levels of service are: value for money, safety, resilience, amenity, travel time reliability and accessibility. All categories of roads in Northland are funded under the same formula as the same categories in Canterbury and Waikato.
Most of us know the roading issue in Northland is different. We have challenging topography and geology and the raw material we work with is much more difficult.
These combined with weather extremes in drought and rain that open our sealed roads, make for a higher cost per kilometre of construction and maintenance than the rest of the country.
So while we are funded the same, we do not get as much bang for our buck - and that has nothing to do with the performance of roading engineers and contractors.
They perform against budget and performance indicators and, in that respect, do a pretty good job within the funds available.
The balance between capital and maintenance has tipped and we are not spending enough money on maintaining our roads. The AA considers there is around $900 million in backlog of national road maintenance and Northland needs a disproportionately higher amount of that to get to a level playing field.
The evidence of this is stark. Northland's road use is up 31 per cent over the past 10 years with the majority of this in heavy traffic, while pavement and seal funding has stayed relatively static.
Skid resistance and road roughness are overall at a lesser standard than the rest of the country and our death and serious injury rates because of head-on and run-off-road crashes are the highest in the country.
Increasing heavy traffic on rougher and more slippery roads does not make our roads safer. We are not a basket case but we have a special case for enhanced road maintenance on Northland roads.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.