Cr Greg Sayers
Rural ratepayers are being robbed blind by the Auckland Supercity, while allowing carcinogenic rural roads to remain unsealed, according to Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers.
Cr Sayers made claim after securing figures from the Auckland Council that show Rodney rural landowners pay $38 million in rates but only $1.22 million is invested back to seal Rodney’s roads.
“After exhaustive effort I have been able to source Rodney’s rate-take figures,” he says.
According to Sayers, the $1.22 million currently allocated to road sealing is bolstered by borrowings to make a total of $3.3 million for sealing projects each year.
But Cr Sayers says this is hopelessly inadequate.
He is calling for a tripling of the road sealing budget from $3.3 million to $10 million a year for the next 10 years.
Cr Sayers says that rural rates are being siphoned off to the CBD to compensate for what he calls Auckland Council’s continued overspending and wastage of money.
Meanwhile, local residents are left exposed to serious health and safety issues, he says.
“Rural roads have become both a safety and a health issue because, being unsealed, the dust particles generated when driving on them get breathed-in and have been classified as a probable carcinogen,” he says.
Figures supplied to Greg Sayers by Auckland Council. Watercare charges a separate fee for water supply and sewage treatment.
Last December, Mahurangi Matters reported on a New Zealand Transport Agency study, which monitored an unsealed road in the far North and found dust particles known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, including lung cancer.
Cr Sayers says these health findings have generated little sympathy from Auckland Council.
“I am often told that my constituents chose to live in the country, like somehow not choosing to live in the CBD makes them less worthy. I see no reason why they should not have the same health protection as their urban counterparts,” he.
“Rural people realise the importance of contributing towards wider civic services. However, Council needs to stop milking such a huge percentage of the rates away from local needs.”
In response to Cr Sayers concerns, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland Transport is trying to progressively expand the number of roads within the Auckland region that are sealed. However, financial constraints mean the process will take time.
A targeted rate for road sealing might be the answer.
“Franklin tackled this problem years ago, prior to amalgamation, by using a targeted rate to seal nearly all of the significant roads in the district,” Mr Goff says.
He adds that statements about Rodney missing out need to be backed up by evidence.
Mr Goff says the Morrison Low report, a recent independent consultant’s assessment, says that if Rodney were to become a unitary authority, then Rodney’s rates would need to increase by 48 per cent.
Mr Goff declined to respond when it was suggested that the “paltry” $1.22 million invested in road sealing, from a rural rate take of $38 million, was, in fact, evidence that Rodney was missing out.