OPINION: Rural roading bribe poorly aimed

Wayne Brown

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When the government announced that rural areas would get more roading money I initially thought,  "That's good, they've been listening to where the money comes from." But then I had a look at the projects and realised," No they haven't. "

Rural areas had all their seal extensions stopped by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce so the government could afford the big urban road projects to woo the big voter blocks in the cities.

We all lived with that but wanted whatever money left over from rural trucking Road User Charges to go on works that make rural roads more reliable, rather than central bureaucrat-mandated safety projects like barriers on the sides of roads that flood and block several times a year.

Well that's what we have got up North. The one bit of money Northlanders are being bribed with is to straighten some curves on SH1 just north of Whangarei but nothing to stop the regular flooding at Moerewa, Kaeo or Rangiahua.

So the people of Kaitaia will still be cut off five to seven days a year from groceries, hospitals, etc, though they can feel safer on a couple of curves where a sign saying slow down would have worked. Dopey, eh!

Surely if the government can trust rural people to run their farms and forests to produce the nation's exports then it can trust them to choose the best use of whatever paltry roading funds that are sent.

Weather events of the past week show just how dumb NZ Transport Agency policies are.

Not only did those safety barriers use up money that could have been spent in flood proofing SH1 (which after all is New Zealand's main road), but the barriers exacerbated the flooding and got in the road of repairs. 

Route resilience is the main requirement of rural New Zealand but at every turn politically correct overpaid city bureaucrats insist on unwise safety projects, apparently unaware of equally life-threatening issues of being cut off from food and hospitals.

The problems start at the top with a board overweight in accounting and legal people but only two with engineering backgrounds; and those are not from roading, rural or transport businesses, either.

Roading is too important for a board like this and too important for a minister already overcommitted with repairs to Christchurch. Doubtless the bribe will work though as rural New Zealand has a habit of backing the Nats regardless of what they do or don't do.

Wayne Brown has an engineering degree and is a fellow of the Institute of Professional Engineers and a former Far North mayor

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