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Pothole politics welcomed

Pothole politics welcomed
CAPTION: National has pledged to establish an additional $500 million Pothole Repair Fund and the Government responded saying previous underinvest by National led to the "crisis", with the debate around road funding welcomed by a transport industry representative and the Ashburton District Council. SUPPLIED.

The state of Mid Canterbury's roads is getting increasingly worse, leading to safety concerns from truckies.

It's a concern that has meant renewed debate around boosting road maintenance funding has been welcomed.

The National Party has pledged to establish an additional $500 million Pothole Repair Fund to “urgently address the shocking state of our local roads and state highways”.

National’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said the fund would come from re-prioritising spending from existing initiatives, such as de-funding blanket speed limit reductions or the Road to Zero advertising campaign.

Mark Wareing, the director of the Wareing Group which incorporates Philip Wareing Limited, Rural Transport and Wilson Bulk Transport, says the roading network is in poor shape and a funding boost is required.

“The drivers are saying the roads are getting worse. The investment hasn’t kept up with the cost of maintaining them.

Mark Wareing, the director of the Wareing Group. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

“Transport, trucks in particular, pay a lot of their operating costs through road user charges to maintain and improve roads so it’s disappointing when so much is siphoned off and put into projects in the North Island.

“Mid Canterbury people can feel short-changed by the lack of investment locally, even though local transport operators have paid their fair share.”

The National Land Transport programme now has to fund other modes of transport rather than just fixing roads, Wareing said, and the debate is where the money is spent.

“The reinvestment hasn’t been going into the roads.”

You don’t have to tell Ashburton District councillors that potholes are a major problem.

Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan said it tops the list of complaints from the community every year.

The issue is funding - specifically, not getting enough of it to get enough done, she said.

Underfunding over time has put Ashburton, and other councils around the country, behind on their road maintenance.

So when she heard the funding of pothole repairs and road maintenance had sparked a pre-election tit-for-tat, it was music to her ears.

“Any debate around a funding boost for roads is welcomed."

What the council does on its roads is driven by Waka Kotahi’s subsidised funding, which is set on a three-year cycle.

The council put in an additional $1.7m for unsubsidised road rehabilitation in 2022-23 and in 2023-24 included an extra $1m for extra work.

Transport Minister David Parker hit back at National's announcement, saying the pledge was “funding to fix a problem that they created themselves” and that the Government was already spending more on road maintenance than any previous government.

“This Government inherited a road maintenance crisis.

“National chose to freeze road maintenance funding during its time in office in order fund high-profile new highways.”

Maintenance spending on all roads, including local roads, had increased by 54% under the Labour-led government and all National was proposing is a “giant pothole” in the transport budget, Parker said.

Tinwald Corridor improvements underway

The Tinwald Corridor Improvements project along State Highway 1 is now underway.

During the first two weeks, the contractors will establish the work site and commence underground service location and traffic light ducting.

The project involves installing traffic lights at the SH1/Lagmhor Road/Agnes Street intersection and improving the existing rail level crossing on Lagmhor Road.

Weather dependent it is expected to be finished by the middle of 2024.

A 30kph speed restriction and other traffic management will be in place during construction.

Two lanes will be open to traffic for the majority of the works, with several temporary traffic management layouts installed as the project progresses that will be announced in advance.

The majority of the work will be carried out from Monday to Friday between 7am and 7pm, and on Saturdays and at night if needed.

By Jonathan Leask