Changes to the way New Zealand Transport Agency administers its subsidies may force Hastings District Council to defer road maintenance and repair work, leading to a decline in the district's road network.
NZTA said its investment in the maintenance, operations and renewals of roads in Hastings for its 2012-15 budget was $45.4 million, an increase of $1.3 million from the current 2009-12 budget.
The council said while NZTA's 51 per cent subsidy remained, it would not be applied to 100 per cent of a project but maybe 80 per cent or less.
Council roading manager Jagwinder Pannu said the full implications of the reduction would be assessed when NZTA released its national land transport programme in August.
But at the recent council long term plan hearing Mr Pannu's report said the extra costs of keeping roads up to scratch might have to be funded by ratepayers.
"[NZTA] have signalled that their focus on state highway capital improvements for roads of national significance means they are unlikely to support our full maintenance and renewal programme for 2012-15.
"Officers are concerned that reduced investment in this area will lead to a decline in the condition of our existing [road] assets in the longer term and increases in future renewal requirements."
Hastings district had 1628km of road and 346km of unsealed road. The council's programme to seal 20km of rural road each year was not included in the long term plan for the next three years because the subsidy that funded the work had been cut.
Rural Hastings residents were upset last year when the council ended the scheme. A group from Patoka, led by Judy and Mark Nelson, fronted up to the council's long term plan hearing to ask for the work to be restarted, specifically at Waihau Rd, but also Price-Cockburn Rd and Hawkston Rd.
They said traffic volumes had increased as a number of sheep and beef farms had changed to dairy. "Fonterra has informed us that as their milk tankers rely heavily on local roads, deteriorating conditions can impact on their fleet maintenance costs, as well as elevate the safety risk to their drivers and other road users."
Mr Pannu said if the work went ahead, it would need to be 100 per cent funded by the council. The Patoka submitters were told it would cost $3.4 million to to seal the 15.6km of Waihau Rd. It would cost $1.2 million for the 5.8km of Price-Cockburn Rd, and just over $1 million to seal the 4.8km of Hawkston Rd, total cost was $26.2 million.
Level of local funding indicated before budget
The New Zealand Transport Agency is in the final stages of preparing its next three-year budget for land-transport programmes, says regional director Jenny Chetwynd.
While the budget wouldn't be adopted until August, the agency had provided "indicative investment levels" to the Hastings District Council to factor in to its long-term plan, Ms Chetwynd said.
"Our national investment in local road maintenance and operations has been increasing strongly for some time."
The investment would help local and national transport network programmes achieve economic growth and productivity as well as "support safer journeys".
Despite tight economic conditions, the overall investment in the maintenance and operations and renewals for local roads has increased by 2.3 per cent, Ms Chetwynd said.
The level of investment in each regional roading network was determined by assessing the existing road conditions, safety performance and freight demand.
"The NZTA is working with councils to help them find the best ways to manage road maintenance and operation costs," Ms Chetwynd said.
Hawke's Bay Regional Transport Committee chairman Alan Dick said a possible reduction in local road investment was a big issue on which the committee wanted to focus.
"But our first priority is to secure the three-year transport programme we have for the region, which stands at about $24 million, plus contributions from the Napier city and Hastings district councils."
The programme would be confirmed as part of NZTA's national programme in August.
"We know regional roads may suffer as a result of money being shifted to bigger national projects and councils are starting to feel the impact through their local road maintenance budget," Mr Dick said.