By Hayley Gastmeier
South Wairarapa ratepayers will soon be footing nearly half the bill for the region’s most problematic road.
On average each year the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) spends $1m on Cape Palliser Rd, as it is invariably washed out or damaged by wave action.
But an agreement that has been in place for nearly 20 years, and which has seen the government fully fund the road, is coming to an end.
From July 2018, the South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) will be up for 48 per cent of the road’s maintenance and repair costs.
However, about 4km of the 34km stretch of road will be retained by NZTA, with these being the most problematic areas.
They include Te Kopi in front of the DOC house and further along, Johnsons Hill, Whatarangi Cliffs, Kawakawa and Mangatoetoe areas, and Kupe’s Sail.
The change comes after NZTA reviewed, and by and large removed, its Special Purpose Road (SPR) status.
Cape Palliser Rd begins at the intersection with Lake Ferry Rd, and runs generally south, ending near the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
In 1997 it was declared a SPR by Transit New Zealand Authority, now NZTA.
According to NZTA, SPRs have a high proportion of tourist traffic, are of a lower standard than of a state highway, and pass through a land area where the rating potential is significantly lower than the maintenance cost of the road.
An NZTA document shows there are 34 of these roads in New Zealand.
Over the next few years the SPR status will be phased out, following a road funding review by the government.
In 2018, all local authorities who manage SPRs will receive the same Funding Assistance Rate (FAR) for those roads as they do for all their other local roads.
In the case of SWDC, that is a 52 per cent subsidy.
The council’s chief executive Paul Crimp said the change would not necessarily have a significant impact on South Wairarapa ratepayers, as the costs would be absorbed into SWDC’s annual roading budget, of about $7.5m.
Mr Crimp said the average yearly spend of $1m was “mainly at very small vulnerable bits of the road”, which NZTA would still cover.
“In the last couple of years our FAR increased from 48 per cent to 52 per cent, which softens the prospective increase in costs.
“As a result of this increase in FAR rate, we set up a roading reserve of $200,000 per year, because we knew we would eventually have to take back the SPR, or parts of it.”
Mr Crimp said for the 30km stretch of Cape Palliser Rd that SWDC would be responsible for, maintenance would cost about $4850 per kilometre per year.
This would include pavement, drainage, bridge maintenance, vegetation clearing and reseals.
Of the $145,500 total increase to the budget, the net increase would be just $70,000 after the NZTA subsidy.
“We do not anticipate any impact to the ratepayer as we will adjust the [$200,000 roading] reserve by the level of cost increase.”
Mr Crimp said historically weather related damage had only occurred within the 4km problematic zone.
“[Should damage occur within] the 30km we have taken back into our network, or anywhere else on our network, then depending on the severity, we can still receive a subsidy over and above the 52 per cent, and up to 100 per cent.
“In addition, the roading reserve fund would in all likelihood cover this cost.
“If that is not sufficient, we can either carry out less routine work or borrow money to cover the cost, or a mix of both.”
Mr Crimp said SWDC and NZTA were now negotiating a $25m project for strengthening work over the next eight years to improve the resilience of the road.
“This will ultimately reduce the maintenance requirements and thus our costs.”