More road money urged

The Government should spend more money improving roads vital for primary production and tourism, Otago Regional Council and Environment Southland staff say.

They were invited by the Government to help guide the next three-year plan on land transport, which will set national spending priorities for at least the next 10 years.

The Government policy statement (GPS) on land transport is due to be released in the middle of the year, and will direct annual Crown transport funding of about $3 billion.

It will not allocate funding for specific projects, but will establish how much should be spent on different transport activities through the national land transport programme.

At an Otago regional transport committee meeting in Dunedin this week, staff suggestions from Environment Southland and the Otago Regional Council were discussed and largely adopted by committee members for submission to the Government.

They agreed priorities for the lower South Island of primary production and tourism should be supported through Government investment in roads which were vital to the sectors.

That included making sure there was adequate infrastructure for seamless links between producers, processors and ports, and properly maintaining or upgrading bridge crossings on major tourism routes.

Staff said the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) appeared to have insufficient funding to replace bridges on key routes in a timely manner, such as the Kawarau Falls bridge on State Highway 6 and the Beaumont bridge over the Clutha on State Highway 87.

The committee agreed funding should be provided to replace bridges ''no longer functioning adequately''.

NZTA Otago-Southland highways manager Ian Duncan said all bridges on the state highway network would be replaced before they became unusable or unsafe.

But committee members said bridge renewal remained a priority for Otago and Southland, and the state of some bridges was concerning, and they should be replaced sooner rather than later.

Members also supported staff comment that district councils in Southland struggled to meet their share of basic road maintenance and renewal costs, because funding was ''very constrained''. They said state highway projects with a high priority in Otago and Southland might not proceed because they had a low rank in a national context.

It was agreed that as the Government's contribution to land transport depended on road user charges, fuel excise and vehicle registrations, there was no incentive to invest in activities which reduced vehicle dependence and congestion.

That conflicted with the desire to improve network energy efficiency, which was an issue for urban areas including Dunedin, the committee agreed.

''This principle is causing under-investment in walking and cycling facilities, and public transport,'' staff reported.

The committee will submit a report to the Government outlining transport issues for Otago and Southland.

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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