A special rate to cover the damage heavy trucks are expected to create on Whanganui's rural roads when forest harvesting accelerates is something the district council needs to get serious about.
That is the message from Wanganui Federated Farmers in its submission to the council's 2016-17 annual plan.
Branch spokesman Tim Matthews told councillors they should look at what Ruapehu District Council is considering - a special differential rate to recover costs from the forest landowners.
Mr Matthews said Whanganui's rural roads would experience heavy vehicle movements at least four times and possibly 10 times higher than those currently servicing existing farming operations adjoining the forests.
"There is a clear case for introducing either a special forest road policy or a differential roading rate," he said.
Harvesting Whanganui's 15,000ha of pine plantations would have an impact of millions of dollars on those roads. A council study showed it would cost an extra $20 million over 30 years to provide the present level of roading "service".
The Ruapehu council meets tomorrow to decide whether to introduce a rating system that would charge forest landowners.
In that region an estimated 36,500ha of forestry plantation is expected to mature from now on, and harvesting could yield 24 million tonnes of timber to be trucked out.
A Ruapehu council spokesman said the issue was that forestry units were rated at a much lower level due to the lower capital value of forestry compared with dairy and sheep and beef farms.
"This has led to inconsistency in how we rate land use and is inconsistent with community demands that the rating arrangements are fair and equitable. So our council is proposing to charge forest land owners more on the Land Transport Rate to compensate for the damage heavy logging trucks do to the road network," he said.
The proposed differential would be set at 1.5 times the targeted roading rate on the capital value of forestry properties with a land use category of Forestry Exotic (FE). This would generally increase rates on forestry blocks and help shift the burden of the land transport rate requirement from higher capital value properties to land used solely for forestry with very low capital value.
The spokesman said the effects on each property were variable but the differential "sends a signal that land use types have varying effects on rural road networks".
While a differential was not the entire answer to the problem, it was a response to a community demand to for fairness and equity.
Two years ago Ruapehu council asked the Road Controlling Authority Forum NZ (RCAF) to fund a report into the key issues around the impact of forestry heavy vehicles on road networks and provide guidelines for fair and equitable distribution of costs.
Ruapehu intends to use the report's findings as guidelines for reviewing the council's approach to this issue.