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OPINION: Rural roading bribe poorly aimed

BROWNIE POINTS

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

Comments and questions
3

Always to the point Mr Brown and you are right of course. All parts of the road network web join to make the whole web. Getting fair share back to regions is partly ( if not mostly) about politics. It shouldnt be that way.

Well said and absolutely correct. I have a similar background and still work in the field so cant point out the obvious failings in the system and the people who have been appointed to oversee it. I make a lot of fees from safety works but can often see a similar result can be achieved by simple means. The long term benefit may be of great value but in the short term expensive projects that have real safety benefit with no alternatives are being delayed. Sure the project should be done one day but not yet when something cheap and simple can do the job short term.

But barriers suit the current philosophy of safe systems which I suspect will be abandoned soon when enough people recognise it for the crock that it is. Better to stop people falling off the road than make the roadside for them to fall into.

If you want to look at a good example of waste in such a project look at the intersection just north of Dome Valley. Apparently it is an accident spot (not that I can recall one). Millions is being spent on it (probably causing more accidents than it has prevented to date) and there are the usual time delays and delays to the traffic that then speeds up to have an accident elsewhere. Another was on straightening SH12 between Brynderwyn and Maungaturoto to solve a problem that did not exist but the secondary Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd, through which traffic is diverted when SH1 is closed gets no funding, has slips, one way bridges and flooding.