The National Land Transport Programme 2021-24 finally gets road maintenance funding at the level it needs to be, but it will not be enough to catch up with years of deferred maintenance, says Civil Contractors New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Silcock
The three-year, $24.3b National Land Transport Programme 2021-24 announced this week by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, features a more than 24 per cent increase in State Highway and local road maintenance. Public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure also receive a major boost, rising 40 per cent to nearly $6b, while the Road to Zero safety plan gets around $2.9b.
It is fantastic to see road maintenance funding rise to a more appropriate level to keep the roads safe and in good condition and allow maintenance companies to rebuild capability and capacity.
Road maintenance funding announced today has finally reached the minimum level it should have held over the past decade. That’s great, but it’s not enough to allow us to catch up with the backlog created by the ‘sweat the asset’ approach taken over the past decade.
To achieve safe, well-maintained roads we must invest in getting the network back up to scratch, then maintain funding that scales with the network and allows for the impacts of more frequent severe weather events, increased traffic flow and population growth.
The government should be commended for its $2b boost from central Government coffers to top up the 2021-24 National Land Transport Fund, with the shortfall largely due to limited funding sources and an increasing range of projects and transport modes being brought under the umbrella of the National Land Transport Programme.
The fall in National Land transport Fund income from road user charges and petrol tax was likely to continue, and this demonstrates the need for a long-term vision to sustainably fund improvement and maintenance of the country’s transport networks in different ways.
A longer-term funding approach should be considered to avoid ‘piecemeal’ transport infrastructure construction and provide increased continuity of work needed for contractors to invest in capability and capacity.
It’s very important we have a steady workflow. While we’re glad this has been recognised in current work plans, we welcome further initiatives to provide continuity of work for the country’s infrastructure constructors, and better transport outcomes for New Zealand.