Road funding drop means ‘plan B’ for council

The Southland District Council will immediately start working on a "plan B" following an unexpected budget shortfall.

Councillors yesterday adopted its long-term plan which had budgeted $458 million on capital projects over the next 10 years.

That set a basic rates increase across the district of 9.38%, a reduction from the 10.15% originally proposed.

The adoption was delayed after Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s announcement it would only fund $85 million, or 85%, of what had been requested for roading and bridge programmes for the first three years of the plan.

Staff then had to review the plan and decided to spread it over years four to ten of its capital programme.

Although the council has been granted less funding from the transport agency than sought, it was still allocated more than it received in its previous three-yearly funding cycle.

Because of that, the level of services proposed in the LTP would be kept, but the road and bridges programme would be cut back and delayed.

The council has 161 bridges which need to be replaced in the next decade.

During the council meeting yesterday, Cr Karyn Owen said although council did not have much choice given the lateness of the funding, she would like to see council thinking forward.

She wanted her colleagues to start discussions now about a possible plan B in case of another shortfall for the next long-term plan.

"I think that [in] four years’ time, we shouldn’t just be hoping that they’re [the NZ Transport Agency] going to come to the party with their share because the reality is that might not happen again and we could be in the exactly same situation again."

Mayor Gary Tong agreed and said discussions would start later this week.

"We are not going to continue to kick the can down the road. We are committed as a council, on behalf of their ratepayers and residents, to do what we’ve been asked to do."

Cr John Douglas stated the transport agency was collecting more in road user charges than the council, as a region, had received in financial assistance.

"There is an increase in activity on our roads but it has not been reflected from NZTA in the support we are getting from them."

Mr Tong was sure the transport agency was getting the council’s message and he hoped ratepayers would understand the council would not let this go.

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