Brownlee defends shortfall in roads funding
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is emphatic that the Puhoi to Wellsford road of national significance will still go ahead even though he does not know how much it will cost.
Speaking this weekend on TV3’s The Nation programme, Mr Brownlee said the New Zealand Transport Agency was going trying to sort out the geological challenges “that you have through that part of the country, but it is on the books for construction beginning in the 2015-18 period, and we intend to stick to that”.
Asked if that meant the government would go ahead no matter how much it cost, he said: “I think at this stage we're doing all of the investigations that are necessary to build a strong road.
“There is no indication yet that there will be cost problems that would make us change on that.
“So the position is that we are going to build that road.”
And he rejected claims on the programme by Southland District Council mayor Frana Cardno that cuts to roading expenditure there to help pay for the roads of national significance could end up endangering tourists’ lives in the Catlins.
Ms Cardno said Mr Brownlee needed to learn some facts.
“He needs to learn where the economy of New Zealand is based and he needs to look at the roads of national significance and say what harm would be done if we just put them off for a while, until as a country we can afford them.”
Mr Brownlee agreed that Southland was this year getting only $160 million of the $200 million it had asked for to maintain its roads.
But he said that was until an increase on their previous allocation.
“When it comes to just the road maintenance part, it's a 6.2% increase and in the previous period they didn’t use all the money that they had and returned some to NZTA,” he said.
And he said the government was continuing to look at public private partnerships building toll roads as a way of taking pressure off roading funding.
He singled out Wellington’s Transmission Gully as a potential candidate for tolls.
“I know that there is a process going on at the present time to consider that possibility.”
But no new roads in Christchurch would be tolled.