An underslip on Kaiwaka-Mangawhai Rd, one of the many problems on the diversion route used when the SH1 route over the Brynderwyns is closed.
Northland local body leaders want the Government to front up with $185.5 million immediately to repair and upgrade the region’s storm and cyclone-damaged roads.
But they are not holding much hope they will get the
money in the Budget announced today, despite the region’s economy taking a $1m hit every day State Highway 1 via the Brynderwyns is closed.
A new Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA) report outlining the extent of the damage inflicted on the region’s roads by severe weather events was to be presented to Treasury officials in Kaikohe last week, but ironically had to be put off because of adverse weather.
The Whangārei, Far North and Kaipara District Councils, Northland Regional Council and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency make up the alliance, and its report painted a devastating picture of the damage caused since July last year and the financial toll absorbed each day the Brynderwyns was closed.
The report claimed Northland needs $107.5m for immediate resilience, safety and capacity improvements for the main Brynderwyn detours; $36m over three years for repairs to 116 of 1126 historic slips on local road routes; $25m for drainage improvements across 3391 kilometres of unsealed roads and $17m for supplementary Emergency Works Financial Assistance.
NTA wants confirmation of Government funding to Waka Kotahi to progress the business case for a new SH1 Brynderwyns Expressway and completion of the committed $100m programmes to reinstate SH1 Mangamuka Gorge and its detour routes.
The Government earlier this week announced a billion-dollar flood and cyclone recovery package as part of Budget 2023 which will cover rebuilding roads, rail and schools while preparing for future events, with a big investment in flood protection measures.
“The recovery package responds to the immediate recovery needs of today and invests in greater resilience for tomorrow,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“This is about doing the basics – repairing and rebuilding what has been damaged and making smart investments, including $100m of protection funding to ensure future events don’t cause the same devastation.”
Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo was disappointed the report was unable to be presented to the Government last week but said it was sent to ministers, Northland MPs and many others.
But Cocurullo did not expect today’s Budget to deliver anything like the amount needed to repair the region’s council-controlled roading network.
Transport Minister Michael Wood had replied thanking them for their email before saying their comments had been put before the minister for his consideration and they could expect a reply in due course – although the minister was currently taking a minimum of two months to respond to correspondence.
Since July, around $27.5m worth of damage had occurred to Northland roads – even before Cyclone Gabrielle hit in February, Cocurullo said.
“Our roads were pretty bad before all this bad weather and before Cyclone Gabrielle, with around 116 slips on roads across the region caused by the weather. During the cyclone, 183 roads were closed and 267 were impacted.”
Most roading damage was caused by the huge deluges of water endured during the 10 extreme weather events since July.
Cocurullo said the $1m loss for every day the Brynderwyns was closed was a “very conservative estimate”.
“We know that when it’s closed, people think Northland is cut off from the rest of the country and we’ve seen accommodation bookings cancelled as a result.
“It also means [it takes] longer to transport goods and people to and from the region, which also adds costs.”
Then there were the detours around the Brynderwyns that Cocurullo indicated were not up to scratch.
He said the main SH1 Brynderwyn detours – Paparoa-Oakleigh Highway and through Kaiwaka-Mangawhai-Waipū – had been churned up by the amount of traffic needing to use the routes as the roads were not engineered to handle the volumes experienced, especially heavy vehicles.
“That State Highway 1 route is crucial to Northland, and if it is blocked again in the future, we need those detour routes upgraded to a standard so they can cope with all the extra traffic.
“They are not coping now, and need around $107m spent on them to bring them up to that standard,” Cocurullo said.
He said NTA wanted the funding to be new money rather than it being taken from other Northland roading projects, to prevent scenarios such as the $100m put aside for repairing SH1 over the Mangamukas being used for a different purpose.