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.

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