Rural road network.

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Fri 5 Oct 18.

Despite challenges Council managing rural roads well.

A challenging wet winter combined with the impact of the logging harvest and a shortage of skilled road workers has seen rural communities expressing a number of frustrations over the rural road network at this year’s River Valley Meetings in the Ruapehu District.

The River Valley Meetings so named in recognition of the communities who live and work in Ruapehu’s remote rural river valleys were started by Council’s land transport team nine years ago and are now a well-established and integral part of Council’s road management strategy.

Land Transport Manager Warren Furner said that the River Valley Meetings have enabled Council to bring rural communities in as a partner at the front of the decision making process about the roads they rely on for their survival.

“We hold three meetings per year and rotate them throughout the district with this year’s being in Waimiha, Ohakune and Kaitieke,” said Mr Furner.

“They provide the opportunity to meet with the communities we serve and gain first-hand knowledge of local road conditions and any ‘hot spots’ that require urgent remedial attention.

The input from local residents has enabled better decisions about where to spend our limited road improvement dollars and has been invaluable in improving the safety of local rural roads.”

Mr Furner said that a combination of factors including prolonged adverse weather, logging activity and skill shortages had created a ‘perfect storm’ which had made maintaining levels of service challenging this past winter.

“Council and our road management partners have been working to resolve the issues and so were not surprised at the feedback we received.

While the challenges of getting experienced road crews continue to affect the whole industry we are confident that we can manage the issues raised by our communities.

Our efforts will be assisted greatly by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) agreeing to Council’s request to bring forward the implementation of a 72% Funding Assistance Rate (FAR) subsidy to this 2018/19 year.

Rural communities should also take comfort from NZTA’s yearly procedural audit of Council’s management of its land transport activity that looks at a number of key areas such as procurement, contract and expenditure management, road safety requirements and cost effectiveness of management practices.

The audit feedback noted that there were no areas of concern in the land transport activity while also highlighting a number of areas of strong performance.”

Mr Furner said that the areas of particular strength noted in the audit included that contract management activities are well documented, all road safety audit requirements being met and that the professional services delivered by land transport were providing good value for money.

“With land transport being Council’s largest area of expenditure the praise for Council’s management of its roading contracts was very welcome.

Notably Audit commented on the high level of detail that was provided to the elected members in monthly reports to enable informed decision making.”

Chief Executive Clive Manley added that the NZTA audit feedback should give all ratepayers confidence in Council’s management of its land transport activity.

“The land transport team are held in high regard by people involved in the NZ roading sector including government agencies and other councils with requests for us to share our methods and practices,” he said.

“As well as being acknowledged for its good practices Ruapehu’s roading team are also recognised as ‘thought leaders’ in how to approach some of the national roading challenges rural NZ faces.

A good example of this is in an idea promoted by Mr Furner for reducing the stress on rural roads from heavy logging trucks.

The idea which is now under consideration by Local Government NZ (LGNZ) and the NZTA is to incentivize logging trucks through road user charges monitored by GPS to use specified routes that make use of state highways rather more fragile country roads.

While making use of state highways may be a longer route the trucking company is compensated by lower road user charges.

The net benefit to rural NZ and NZ Inc. is that this is more cost effective than rebuilding rural roads and bridges and relieves the financial stress on rural ratepayers.

For a small rural council this is another example of Ruapehu punching above its weight.”

*END*

A combination of factors including prolonged adverse weather, logging activity and skill shortages had created a ‘perfect storm’ which had made maintaining levels of service on rural roads challenging this past winter.

Page reviewed: 05 Oct 2018 10:57am