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Cuts to the national roading programme will be keenly felt in the Clutha district, with officials fuming over nearly $8 million worth of projects being lost and rural Otago roads suffering neglect.
The national land transport programme has removed funding of $51 million for Otago roading projects and will cut about $7.8 million from projects in and around the Clutha.
Mayor Juno Hayes said the cut was "a disastrous result" for the Clutha roading network - the second-largest in the country.
The Government's focus, he said, appeared now to be on state highways at the expense of local roads in rural areas, he said.
"It is very disappointing that Clutha will get 15% less than anticipated, especially given an overall increase of 14% for local road funding across the country in the next three years."
Clutha District Council district assets committee chairman Peter McPherson said the funding drop was a huge blow for Clutha, which had the potential to lead New Zealand's economic recovery through the export of primary produce.
It needed investment in roads for this.
About 75% of Clutha's 2916km roading network is gravel roading, which can deteriorate quickly.
The best highways would be of no use if trucks could not get to them, Mr McPherson said.
"It appears that the powerhouse of the New Zealand economy - the southern rural sector - is being left in the cold as funding in other areas has been given a higher priority."
The impact of the cuts in Clutha includes:
• Roading renewals (resealing etc), cut by $3 million.
• Maintenance and operations cut by $1.9 million.
• Minor improvement projects cut by $1 million.
• Bridge renewals cut by $500,000.
• Walking/cycling (new footpaths) request reduced by $1.2 million.
Sealing of the Nuggets road remained listed as a possible project but the Clutha council said changes meant it had "little chance" of any funding soon.