The closure by last month's storm of almost every road connecting the Far North to the rest of the country showed the government's road spending priorities were wrong according to Far North District councillor Ann Court.
State highways 1, 10, 11 and 12 were all closed by floods or slips, some in multiple places, at the height of the storm, and the closure of Mangakahia Road left one precarious lane of SH14 at Kaihu as the only means of getting into or out of the Far North.
Some petrol stations ran dry and supermarkets ran out of bread and milk, while the weather also closed both airports. State Highways 1, 10 and 11 were again impassible after last Tuesday night's deluge.
Cr Ann Court, the Far North's representative on Northland's Regional Transport Committee, said the government's criteria for deciding which roading projects to fund had been changed to favour Auckland and a handful of Roads of National Significance (RoNS).
It was the government's prerogative to decide how money should be spent, but the changes had made it almost impossible to get funding for Far North roading projects. A sparsely populated rural area could not tick the government's boxes on congestion, public transport, RONs and freight.
"New Zealand is more than just freight. When you're not investing in towns like Moerewa and Kawakawa and they continue to flood, cutting off our lifeline, then I think they've got their priorities wrong," she said.
"The fact that many couldn't access hospitals, emergency services, supermarkets, work, petrol and education needs to take a far higher priority in the minds of those who allocate the funding."
Taxpayer dollars were funding road projects in the big cities while the rest of New Zealand struggled to pay for essential infrastructure almost entirely out of rates. Instead of building roads for resilience, the council was "just patching, patching, patching".
Cr Court welcomed Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's commitment to fund at least 90 per cent of the district's estimated $30 million repair bill from the July storm, though it would only return those roads to their previous poor standard.
And while she backed the northern motorway extension to Wellsford, that was one project at the very southern gateway into Northland.
"What about the rest of our failing network?" she asked.
Northland MP Mike Sabin said if the region was to get a bigger share of the national road funding pie it would have to demonstrate why extra taxpayer money should come Northland's way, and not, for example, to Gisborne.
With its long road network, unstable soils and high ratio of local roads to state highways, he believed Northland had a good case for extra funding, but councils would have to work together to convince Wellington they needed the extra help. One of his frustrations as a local MP was dealing with four councils with competing road priorities; regions that did well were those that worked together.
The storm was also an opportunity to show Wellington the sort of challenge Northland faced on a regular basis, however, and he would be taking NZ Transport Agency representatives around the region for a first-hand look at the damage. They would also meet council representatives.
The government's 2015-25 policy statement would strike more of a balance between economic and social factors when it came to allocating road funding, Mr Sabin added.