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National taking heartland New Zealand for a ride

Transport Spokesperson

National taking heartland New Zealand for a ride

National's transport and local government policies are deeply unpopular in the rural heartland, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford, following a road trip to south Canterbury and north Otago.

“National's cuts to local roads budgets have left smaller councils out of pocket by millions of dollars, forcing them to increase rates or let rural roads fall into disrepair.

"Council officials that I spoke to in Oamaru, Timaru and Ashburton, and local Federated Farmers representatives, are unimpressed that they are effectively being asked to subsidise National's so-called Roads of National Significance in the big cities, at the very time the Government is telling local authorities to tighten their belts.

"These councils all have big roading networks and small ratepayer populations to fund maintenance work and repair damage, much of it caused by large trucks working farming routes.

"They believe it makes poor economic sense to deliberately run down the roads that carry the nation's export wealth to market in order to subsidise gold plated motorway projects in the cities that mostly have poor benefit-cost-ratios.

"All three councils were also highly critical of National's Local Government Amendment Bill which will narrow the purpose of local government to infrastructure and public services at lowest cost. It is the provincial councils that most need the flexibility to respond to community needs allowed under current law.

"Ashburton District Council runs two medical clinics in Rakaia and Methven, and told me they probably couldn't continue under National's proposed changes.

"You have to wonder whether local National MPs Jo Goodhew and Jacqui Dean are speaking up in Caucus about these issues. I certainly haven't heard any public comment from them.

"National seems to be not so much taking provincial New Zealand for granted as taking it for a ride,” said Phil Twyford.

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