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Rural Road Users Heading For Potholes - Feds

Rural road users are in for a continued bumpy ride with no extra money for local road improvements in the final Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2021.

"The final GPS released this week has investment in local road improvements unchanged from the draft at an upper level of $300 million down to as low as $100 million in 2021/22, and steadily declining each year for the decade after," Federated Farmers transport spokesperson Karen Williams said.

"However, it is pleasing to see increases in local road maintenance and renewal, with a forecast range of $650m-$760m next financial year, and slow but steady increases thereafter."

Central and local government share the costs of upgrading local roads, which includes most rural roads. With councils under heavy financial pressure, there has been considerable under-investment, Karen said.

"These roads are the lifeblood of our economy and that’s even more so now that agriculture has to do so much of the heavy lifting with exports.

"Federated Farmers said in its 2020 Election Platform that rural roads had deteriorated from systemic under-investment as government funding priorities shifted ever more towards large-scale urban motorways, public transport and cycling projects in urban areas.

"Rural bridges have also suffered from investment neglect and many now exceed their designed lifetime."

"We have a heavily used bridge in my local rural community that has an approach with poor sightlines. It ponds badly with surface water during heavy rain and has no room for another vehicle if a large truck is on it," Karen said.

In its election wish-list, the AA also put road maintenance as one of the top concerns of their members. The AA pointed out that the percentage of the roading and pavement network that is re-surfaced has declined from a high of 14% in 2009/10 to just over 8% in 2018/19. The decline in foundation work - the platform that underpins the road surface - has been even more marked.

"This is concerning as failing to adequately invest in foundation work in particular will lead to a progressive degradation of local roads that resurfacing will just mask," Karen said.

"Federated Farmers acknowledges and applauds the record $48 billion overall investment in transport services and infrastructure planned for the next decade but again asks the government to remember our rural hinterland, from where our economic recovery will be driven."

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