Four retired roading contractors with 170 years of combined experience in the construction and maintenance of Northland's state highways say they "would be ashamed of the standards that are there now".
Whangārei friends Peter Laurent, Kevern Rogers, Gary Clemmett and Dick Thorburn have grave concerns about the current state of the region's roads, particularly the state highways.
The men – all life members of the New Zealand Contractors Federation, which is now Civil Contractors New Zealand - believe "the roads are a disgrace to the contractor and to the owner".
They are concerned about what they believe is a lack of maintenance work being carried out and a failure to reseal them properly.
In their day, the contractor would be penalised if work wasn't carried out to standard and would have to redo it off their own bat.
Clemmett is "disappointed and puzzled".
In his opinion: "I've never seen it this bad."
In Thorburn's opinion: "It appears that neither are taking responsibility, neither the contractor or the owner."
The men's comments come after previous Northern Advocate stories highlighting the state of the region's roads, which included a road trip with AA Northland District Council chairwoman Tracey Rissetto.
The AA is also worried about what they say is a lack of maintenance impacting on road safety, a view which resonated with many readers.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has defended its "robust quality assurance processes" and is confident maintenance work is being delivered to an appropriate standard.
The agency has said $38 million was spent on repairing and resurfacing 574 lane kms of Northland state highways in the current 2018 to 2021 funding period.
The 574 lane kms sounded about right over three years, Clemmett said, though "we hear about this work but we're not seeing it happen".
The sheer amount of stripping that is evident on Northland's state highways, where the chip is stripped off the road surface, is "the worst we've ever seen right now".
"You get stripping, occasionally it does happen," Clemmett said.
"But the expectation is you get on and fix it. We're seeing a lot of stripping that's unusual and we're not seeing any action in fixing it."
Waka Kotahi Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said repair and resealing work has been carried out on "a large number of sites" on SH1, SH10, SH11, SH12, SH14, SH15 and SH16 this year.
"So why have we got a problem?" Clemmett said.
"If that's what they're doing [574 lane kms], we shouldn't be seeing what we're seeing with our roads," Thorburn said.
The men collectively worked on Northland roads and state highways from 1954 to 2014 at various companies including Laurent Construction, Fulton Hogan, Downer, McBreen Jenkins and Northland Road Builders.
They all worked their way up from driving graders, trucks and bulldozers to senior management positions and in Laurent's case, owning his own companies.
They say rehabilitation work, where the road is rebuilt, needs to be carried out on 2 to 3 per cent of the road network that's had too many reseals and is beyond patching up.
"They need to be doing 15 to 20km each year to keep up," Clemmett said.
In Clemmett's opinion: "It's just not happening. They don't seem to be renewing the older pavement at a rate that's needed."
Clemmett is also concerned about the length of time it takes to fix problems.
"It used to be 24 hours for a pothole, now it seems to be weeks rather than days to attend to what we call pavement failures.
"You only had to go back a few years and there were maintenance standards and they had to be met. There seems to be no response time now."
Hori-Hoult said there were "robust quality assurance processes and audit regimes in place to assess the quality of state highway maintenance work undertaken by our contractors across New Zealand".
"Waka Kotahi's state highway maintenance contractor for Northland is Fulton Hogan, and based on the performance measures assessed through our quality assurance processes and audit regime in Northland, we are confident that maintenance work is being delivered in the region to an appropriate standard.
"We work closely with all of our contractors to ensure that any quality issues are addressed effectively, and any rework which needs to be carried out is undertaken at our contractor's cost.
"Given the large quantity of maintenance works completed in the region we have had a very small number of reworked sites.
"For context, from 185km of work undertaken last year, 1.5km of remedial work was required, which was completed at the contractor's cost."
The men said two main factors mucked up the roads: water and traffic.
Properly resealed roads made the road skid-resistant.
If the pavement was not sealed properly, water got in and broke it up.
Another reason resurfacing was important was because the stone chip got worn over time - called "polishing" - which made roads slippery and reduced skid resistance.
The AA says nearly 11 per cent of travel in Northland is on roads below the minimum standard of skid resistance.
"If you have to brake in a hurry, it's like braking on a sheet of ice," Thorburn said.
Northland's unique geology is no excuse either, the men say.
Laurent acknowledges the foundations in Northland are poor, because of different soil types including clay.
But that just required more engineering, a thicker layer of metal and better drainage, he said.
"It's not something that can't be dealt with, it just needs to be engineered properly."
Thorburn said in his opinion, there seemed to be a general lack of pride in work carried out these days.
"When we were contractors we competed with each other at tender time, and when tender was finished, we'd get together and have a beer.
"We were all proud of what we had achieved. It seems that pride in that road maintenance has gone.
"As contractors, we would be ashamed of the standards that are there now."
While the men acknowledge the new roundabouts at Kawakawa, Waipapa, Puketona and Rawene are great, "they represent 1 per cent of the highway network".
"You can't ignore maintaining the other 99 per cent because you're doing a few roundabouts," Clemmett said.
The men are also curious to see results and trends from Waka Kotahi's High Speed Data Collection programmes, which measure the state of the highways including roughness, skid resistance, rutting, and texture.
The surveys are carried out between October and March each year and data collected allows the agency to respond to any arising maintenance issues.
The most recent Northland survey was completed on January 15.
The Northern Advocate asked for a copy but was told the information was not currently publicly available and would have to be sought under the Official Information Act.
A wealth of knowledge
Nearly 30 years' experience.
Owned Kaitāia-based companies Laurent Construction and Northland Road Builders from 1954 until 1980. Undertook earthmoving, construction, and sealing of roads north of Kawakawa.
54 years' experience.
Worked at the Ministry of Works based at Ōkaihau, Whangārei and Kaikohe from 1960 to 1985, as a field assistant surveying and designing roads, then as principal engineering officer. Branch manager of Works Civil Construction, which later became Downer, until 2014.
43 years' experience.
Started as a machine operator at McBreen Jenkins in the mid-1960s and moved into senior management of the Northern area managing road maintenance contracts until retirement in 2008.
40 years' experience.
Hired at Laurent Construction in 1970, became general manager in 1976, and continued as GM from 1980, when the company was sold to Fulton Hogan, until retirement in 2009.