Due to extensive storm damage to roads across Northland, including to Shoemaker Rd in Waipu (pictured) there is now a huge backlog of repair work which could take “several years” to fix. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northland’s “woeful” roads may never be fixed after a new report has revealed the region is facing a huge backlog of repairs caused by storm damage that could take several years to clear.
Alliance [NTA] said the need to focus on urgent road repairs due to wet weather and storm damage is delaying routine maintenance on council-owned roading networks.
The NTA has admitted it will “likely take several years” to fully clear the backlog needed on roads in Kaipara, Whangārei and the Far North.
NTA general manager Calvin Thomas said the amount of emergency work needed across sealed and unsealed roads was “extensive”.
The report says road crews are working through repairs on 167 Whangārei roads, 104 roads in Kaipara and 179 in the Far North, which includes clearing around 1000 over slips to ensure roads were open to at least one lane.
Thomas acknowledged the progress crews are making with the “mammoth task” of catching up on routine maintenance and working through initial storm repairs in the lead up to winter.
But there is plenty more work to do, he said.
“In May alone there was another weather event causing a further substantial increase in reported road damage with 1166 incidents reported.
“There are currently more than 2200 open requests for repairs with 836 received between February and April due to ongoing storm events.
“So, these are unprecedented times.
“There is extreme pressure and heavy workloads for our crews on our roading network but, considering the scale of the damage they are progressing well in efforts to get on top of things.”
Northland has gone through its wettest summer season on record, with December through February producing some of the heaviest downpours ever, according to the Niwa Climate Summary for summer.
That came after Northland had its wettest November on record, along with many heavy rain warnings in May. And winter is just getting started.
Far North mayor Moko Tepania said the region’s roads will never change “unless we see significant changes to funding mechanisms”.
“Ultimately it will come down to central government enabling us in this space.
“Under current government policy they favour metropolitan areas, when we’re rural and want our own funding pot so we’re not in competition with our city cousins.
“We need funding so we can address the woeful current transport system, so it’s fit for purpose and safe.”
Tepania said 80 per of his workload, including complaints and concerns from the public, is about roads.
His council would soon be setting up a dedicated roading committee so “at least it’s a way we can have a better level of scope and overview as a council to address this better”.
He hoped it would be establised by the end of June. Until then, Tepania said, “all I can do is sympathise with our community”.
Whangārei District Council chief executive Simon Weston said the challenge to repair Northland’s roads would “continue for some time”.
Along with funding constraints, resourcing and supply chain demands were also factors, he said.
He said the estimated local road repair cost of the combined events over the past 12 months was approaching $100 million.
Another $170m was needed to upgrade critical roads used for detours when the Brynderwyn hills were closed, and to fix historical slips and restore roadside drainage systems.
Weston agreed with Tepania that more funding needed to come from central Government to ensure Northland had a more resilient transport network.
“We appreciate the tolerance and understanding of the Northland community through this challenging period.”
Thomas encouraged residents to phone their local council and report new issues, especially if a site has gotten worse.
“It’s important that locals don’t assume we are aware of all roading damage.
“While we have a substantial log of repairs needed, the ongoing wet weather means new damage through under slips and potholes can occur quickly.”
Desperately seeking funding
In addition to the $100m needed for storm damage repairs, NTA estimates:
- $107.5m is required to upgrade the Kaipara and Whangārei roads used as diversions around the Brynderwyn Hills. This includes $49.5m for Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd and $58.5m for Kaiwaka Mangawhai / Cove Rd.
- $36m needed to repair just 116 of 1126 historic road slips across Northland.
- $25m to fully restore roadside drainage assets across about 3600km of unsealed network.
Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering roading, health, business and animal welfare issues.