Rural roads miss out on funding
The ‘‘lifelines’’ of rural New Zealand have been underfunded to the point of being unsafe, according to the Labour Party and Waikato farmers.
In real terms, the Waikato had lost $18 million in road funding under the current Government, Opposition leader Andrew Little said. And farmers sick of potholes and children bumping along in the school bus are backing his call for a more even urban- rural spread of the transport dollar. Funds had been directed towards roads of national significance at the expense of rural roads, Little said at Fieldays at Mystery Creek.
Nationally, Little said his figures showed a $ 163m drop – in real terms – under the current government in funding for roads that were not in Auckland, Wellington or Canterbury.
Waikato lost $ 18m in transport funding, after inflation, between the 2008/ 2009 and 2013/ 2014 financial years. The Waikato’s rate of road accidents per 100,000 of population is 244 compared with the national average of 210.
Federated Farmers North Waikato chairman Don Coles said roads were the social, economic and cultural ‘‘ lifeline’’ for rural communities. ‘‘ I would agree with Labour . . . Rural roads are being left behind quite drastically,’’ he said.
‘‘You live out here in this environment, the road is the be-all and end-all of life [for communities].’’
Dropouts along the arterial highway 22 – from Tuakau to Raglan – and a lack of grading on metal roads were big worries for locals, he said.
Federated Farmers Wai- tomo district chairman Chris Irons said potholes were so bad near his farm that people drove on the wrong side of the road.
And Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president Chris Lewis said he had heard of school bus trips that were ‘‘ like a rollercoaster ride’’ due to potholes. ‘‘ We want to get our kids safe to school and our families to town,’’ the Pukeatua- based farmer said. It was also a strange irony that farmers could be under pressure for health and safety on their farms, yet faced more risks once they got out on to the road.
Rural roads have long been an issue for Waikato Federated Farmers president Chris Lewis.