Stratford District Council's struggle to persuade the New Zealand Transport Agency to put more money into local roads will come back to haunt local road users, says council director of assets Sven Hanne.
"Something has to give. Staff consider the result of NZTA's funding shortfall poor asset management and unsustainable."
The scour for funding for roads was again highlighted at the council's policy and services meeting at the end of last month.
NZTA approved $2.4 million per year against $4,041,000 requested for 2012/13, $4,165,100 for 2013/2014 and $4,308,700 for the following year by Stratford District Council. By 2014/15, the council expects an annual shortfall of $443,000 on its current budget. This excludes forestry roads, where NZTA has increased its funding for the 2012-2015 period. However, that was also well under what the Stratford council requested.
"While NZTA tends to refer to these reductions as efficiencies, in reality, it is a reduction in the work carried out and will gradually affect the level of service experienced by road users," Sven said.
The results will not be evident in the next three years, but councillor Robin Vickers commented at the meeting that unless council found more money, "it is going to show up".
Sven says council is expected to do the same amount of infrastructure, to the same standard, without taking into account rising costs, especially of labour and bitumen prices.
Sven says the options are to stretch the periods between renewing roads or use cheaper but shorter-lived methods, but this will only compound the problem.
"The end results will be more costly and deliver a lower quality of infrastructure with higher maintenance costs and more frequent failures."
It is the second year the NZTA has not met the council's request.
NZTA regional director Central, Jenny Chetwynd, says due to tight economic conditions in New Zealand, it is necessary for all road controlling authorities, including councils and the NZTA, to trim off any 'in-efficiencies'.
"While funding for road maintenance is tight, Stratford has received an overall increase of four times the national average. Many other councils are expected to fund maintenance of forestry roads out of their general maintenance fund. We have given extra funding to Stratford - a 50 per cent increase for forestry roads - in recognition of the special contribution forestry plays in the local economy."
She says this extra funding for forestry roads will reduce the strain on Stratford's roading budget while supporting economic growth in Stratford.