Increase in road maintenance funding welcome

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 18, 2020

New Zealand‘s civil contractors have welcomed the increased investment in transport funding, announced this week in the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) 2021.

CCNZ chief executive Peter Silcock said the GPS rebalanced priorities so the country‘s roads could be kept safer and better maintained, as well as investing in new improvements.

Silcock said the government had responded quickly to the industry‘s calls for urgent action to increase investment in road maintenance work. An additional $1 billion over the amount proposed in the 2018 policy statement had been added to the upper limit of funding for state highway maintenance over the next five years, and the upper limit for local road maintenance allocation had increased by $180 million over the same timeframe.

“The increase in maintenance funding is a step in the right direction. Although it will not be enough to fully address decades of underinvestment in transport maintenance, it will provide employment for New Zealanders and the benefits of the improvements made will be felt by communities for many years.”

He said historic underinvestment in maintenance meant roads had deteriorated at a faster rate than usual and getting them back up to standard would take more effort. While the amount proposed represented a large increase, it would only go some of the way towards resolving the maintenance deficit as the road network was increasingly affected by severe weather events and vehicle usage arising from population growth.

“To achieve safe, well-maintained roads we need a large initial investment to get the network back up to scratch, and then a level of funding that allows for the impact of more frequent severe weather events and population growth.

“This is about getting our roads back to the standard they should be in. Over the past decade, successive GPS have required NZTA to underinvest in maintenance and that has certainly had an impact on safety outcomes. Road users have noticed the difference.”

Silcock said the new GPS was well balanced by the NZ Upgrade Programme and shovel-ready projects, which provided additional funding sources for capital improvements and allowed the government to focus on increased maintenance of its existing assets, with the inclusion of user charges for the rail network a positive step.

The additional maintenance work funded was “truly shovel-ready” and would provide essential employment in the country‘s economic recovery from Covid-19, he said.

The GPS allocated an average of $4.8 billion per annum over the next decade to the NZTA. When combined with the $6.8 billion NZ Upgrade Programme and initiatives such as the shovel-ready projects and the Provincial Growth Fund, transport investment would reach record levels across public transport, roads, rail and walking and cycling infrastructure.

While these additional government funding packages were a step in the right direction, Silcock said further work was needed to consider how New Zealand could start to catch up with an infrastructure deficit amounting to $75 billion, as calculated in the recent Sense Partners Infrastructure for the Long Haul Report.