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Drained roading reserves topped up

Wairarapa council roading reserves have almost all bottomed out after Cyclone Gabrielle, but Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has increased its subsidy to 96 per cent.

Masterton District Council [MDC] said its flood damage fund is in deficit, while South Wairarapa District Council said its rural roading reserve, which serves a similar purpose, has been “significantly depleted” by the damage from Cyclone Gabrielle.

“But at present, a $300,000 contribution is made to the reserve per annum,” SWDC said.

However, at a February 28 Greater Wellington Regional Council Wairarapa Committee meeting, SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson said the council had “spent an absolute fortune” on fixing roads.

“We were fortunate to have a rural road reserve; it is now zero.”

Carterton District Council said the state of its roading reserve is currently unknown.

Although funds have been depleted, the three councils are confident they can find money elsewhere in the event of another cyclone and that Waka Kotahi would provide further funding.

MDC estimates the immediate response to Cyclone Gabrielle cost $1.35 million, SWDC has spent about $255,000, and CDC said the total spend for Cyclone Gabrielle and Cyclone Hale was about $8.3 million.

None of the councils could estimate the final spending, but MDC said it would be “in the millions”.

Waka Kotahi announced yesterday that it had increased its subsidy rate for road repairs from 56 per cent to 96 per cent for local roads affected by January flooding events or Cyclone Gabrielle.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said the increase in subsidy rate by Waka Kotahi has taken much of the financial burden for this immediate response work off council ratepayers.

“Of course, we will undoubtedly face a bill of multiple millions of dollars more for the cost of reinstating our roads to their pre-cyclone condition. I look forward to further consideration of how the burden for this work can be eased for councils.”

He said the outstanding balance after subsidies would be met from council storm damage funds.

Caffell said professional services from specialist geotechnical teams and structural engineers would be needed to design the works required to complete the roads’ reinstatement.

MDC said a provision of a nominal $500,000 from rates next year will be added to the Annual Plan to begin rebuilding the funds back into the black, making a 1.3 per cent rates increase.

CDC said it is investigating the funding mechanism for the council share of the emergency response as it will carry through multiple financial years, which adds a level of complexity.

None of the councils have marked any roads as potentially unrecoverable or to be abandoned.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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