District council costs to rise

The district council share of road costs will increase in Otago, once the New Zealand Transport Agency changes the way it sets rates for funding assistance.

To maintain current levels of road maintenance and renewal, Otago councils will have to increase the amount they spend.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council will spend an additional $500,000 to $1.8 million each year to maintain service levels, depending on which of the five options is implemented by the NZTA.

Alternatively, the council could choose to reduce the annual level of road work to stay within its budget.

The council's share of costs for the Crown Range and Glenorchy Rds, classified as special purpose roads, will increase from almost nothing to about 50%.

Queenstown Lakes councillor Alexa Forbes said there was a national expectation on the level of service in the tourism resort, and to a degree the cost of that would now be met by ratepayers.

''Glenorchy Rd is a great example. Nobody in Glenorchy wanted that road sealed. It was a national expectation that as a tourism route it needed sealing,'' she said.

The QLDC wants the rate for special purpose roads to be considered independently.

The Waitaki and Clutha councils face cost increases of about 6%, depending on the various options under consideration.

Waitaki District Council staff have suggested the NZTA drop its share of road costs by no more than 1% a year, so councils can manage their increased share in increments.

In Dunedin, the council now pays for about 43% of road maintenance and renewal.

Depending on which model is adopted, it will likely end up paying just over 50%.

The Central Otago District Council is the only Otago authority unlikely to see any significant change.

Proposed changes are part of the first major review of the NZTA's funding assistance model in about 50 years.

Agency staff aim to simplify the complicated model and create more consistency nationwide.

The NZTA sets funding assistance rates for councils depending on their ability to pay for road maintenance and renewal, and depending on the nature and use of roads.

Some road costs are divided almost evenly between the corresponding council and the NZTA, but in some cases the NZTA pays up to 100% of costs.

At an Otago regional transport committee meeting in Dunedin this week, members agreed to submit a report to the NZTA about the proposed changes and their likely impact in the region. It will ask the NZTA to consider setting transition periods so councils can gradually reach their increased share of road costs. The NZTA will continue to fund 100% of work on state highways.

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