Budget focus on resilience right but roading deficit remains

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 19, 2023

While this year’s Budget addresses the urgent need to respond to the devastation caused by the recent weather events it does not address the long-term funding deficit caused by decades of under-investment in New Zealand’s roading network, says National Road Carriers.

“As a country we don’t have the luxury of focusing on the nice to haves,” said Justin Tighe-Umbers, NRC CEO. “If the recent cyclone and flooding has shown us one thing, it’s how we urgently need to get the basics right. In terms of roading we need to focus on the three Rs – Resilience, Rebuild and Restorative maintenance.”

The roading resilience budget of $279 million is a good start. Building resilience into the roading network is critical to reducing the impact of future weather events. But resilience needs to be interwoven across the entire network, preventing ongoing slips and road closures will require more than is currently allocated to shore up the network.

“Recovery and rebuild following the cyclone is critical,” said Tighe-Umbers. “Today’s confirmation of an additional $275 million, on top of the initial $250 million, to address the immediate problems is welcomed but it is not enough to restore the network to its pre-cyclone state. For example, the 11 temporary Bailey bridges will do the job short-term reconnecting communities, but they still need to be replaced with resilient long-term infrastructure that will stand up to future climate events.”

There are no clear plans in the Budget for how the government plans to address the long-standing roading infrastructure and restorative maintenance deficit, NRC adds.

“NRC looks forward to continuing to work with government on the upcoming Government Policy Statement (GPS) for Transport to address this issue. We’re calling for the GPS to provide concrete measures that address the decades of under-investment in our roading network,” said Tighe-Umbers.

Evidence shows that for every dollar spent on roading infrastructure multiple are delivered back in economic returns.

“NRC continues to call for a 50-year roading infrastructure plan that is out of reach of politicians, as we believe this is the first step to achieving quality roads with resilience. This needs to be supported by an employment environment that allows us to attract and keep the skilled workforce operators need, and an environment that supports a realistic low emissions transition based on supply chain evidence, data and insights.”

“We all agree climate change is upon us. But the road transport sector needs the Government, and Waka Kotahi, to focus on the basics of a safe, efficient, well maintained road network that has resilience in-built so it can stand up to future weather events,” concluded Tighe-Umbers.