Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers was last week seeking meetings with Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones in a desperate bit to save Rodney’s road sealing programme.
Figures released in Auckland Council’s proposed emergency budget for 2020/21 look set to stymie plans to seal Rodney’s extensive network of unsealed roads. The blow to the road sealing comes in the wake of optimism last month that unsealed roads would get a funding boost over the next three years, following the Rodney Local Board’s endorsement of an AT plan for extra sealing and maintenance improvements for Rodney roads.
But the plan was subject to final approval by Council’s governing body, currently wrestling with an estimated financial shortfall of $525 million due to the Covid-19 crisis.
According to the proposed emergency budget, to cope with the loss, Council proposes to cut 1100 jobs, sell assets and defer projects, including road sealing projects. If ratepayers endorse a 3.5 per cent rates increase proposed by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, then the budget for seal extensions will drop to $1 million. If there is a rate increase of 2.5 per cent or lower, the seal extension budget will drop to zero.
Cr Sayers says road sealing projects already underway will be completed but road sealing for next year is at significant risk. He says that prior to Covid-19, he had engaged in a hard-fought battle to increase its current budget from $5.9 million to $7.35 million next year and $14 million per year after that.
“Just when it was all in our grasp, it has all been taken away,” he says.
“I am worried that it may take a number of years to recover from the looming recession and to get back to decent funding levels for seal extensions.”
He says as far as he can see, the only way forward is if the central government coughs up substantial amounts of money for “shovel-ready” projects in Auckland and seal extensions are classified as one of these.