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Roading staff under pressure


South Wairarapa and Carterton district councils’ shared roading contract is under scrutiny as elected members weigh up strains on roading staff.

Along with covid and material shortages, roading staff vacancies at both councils were adding to the pressure.

Since 2019, roading services in both districts have been provided through the shared service Ruamahanga Roads, with Fulton Hogan as the contractor.

The contract includes maintenance, renewals, and upgrades to both council networks.

At an assets and services committee, South Wairarapa councillor Alistair Plimmer expressed concern that due to staffing shortages at Carterton, South Wairarapa’s roading manager was bearing the brunt of the work.

He said South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] was “not paying staff to look after Carterton”.

The conversation arose when SWDC partnerships and operations manager Stefan Corbett spoke to a report on roading.

Cape Palliser Rd damage last month. PHOTO/FILE

He said SWDC roading manager Tim Langley had been busy with the emergency response to damage on South Wairarapa’s Cape Palliser Rd due to bad weather and swells.

Plimmer thanked the roading team for their work and asked what the impact was on the Ruamahanga Roading partnership, “with Carterton having problems getting their staff in”.

“Are we picking up any of their slack because it’s a joint contract, or are they just fudging through, and Tim is managing our side?”

Corbett said there had been key vacancies “on the Carterton side, which, due to no one’s fault, have been vacant for some time”.

“But we are picking up some slack at the moment, and it is putting teams under pressure.

“It would be fair to say Tim has borne the brunt of that.”

He acknowledged the roles were hard to fill.

“If the same happened on our side, Carterton would, I’m sure, step up and do the same thing for us.”

Carterton’s roading manager vacancy was filled in November 2021, Carterton District Council [CDC] chief executive Geoff Hamilton said.

“Following a resignation, the roading manager was recently promoted; however, they remained involved with roading activities and projects while recruiting a replacement,” he said.

“A new roading manager has been appointed and will start in the role on June 7.

“We are grateful SWDC continue to support the Ruamahanga Roads partnership in an effort to keep costs down for Carterton and South Wairarapa ratepayers.”

SWDC was advertising a development engineer to join its roading team.

Langley said he was doing “an awful lot” in his role.

“Emails and phone calls come in, and you prioritise them, and if they’re not urgent, they just don’t get done at the moment, and it has been like that for quite some time.

“Are we giving the contract due diligence with regard to Fulton Hogan’s outputs? Probably not.

“We just haven’t got the feet on the ground to do it.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said collaborative approaches such as Ruamahanga Roads had “gives and takes”.

“I’m sure it will come around to our side at some stage in the future, so I think we’ll just carry on in a positive way.”

Beijen acknowledged South Wairarapa roads made up two-thirds of the Ruamahanga Roads network.

South Wairarapa roads was also mentioned in a CDC committee.

CDC infrastructure services manager Johannes Ferreira said in the past month, South Wairarapa roads had been damaged by weather and swells and that most roading resources had been focused there. — NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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