Cr Sayers fights to secure second increase to unsealed roading budgets

9 October 2023. After a history of underfunding, Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers is calling on Auckland Transport to safeguard a recent second funding boost to improve rural roads.

The Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) 2024 has proposed $124 million  in funding over 10 years to the unsealed road improvement programme. In the previous RLTP 2021, the unsealed road budget was $40 million.

The budget will be used for unsealed roads in Franklin, Rodney, the Gulf Islands and the Waitakere ranges to do work such as sealing, road widening, strengthening and drain improvements. The RLTP will go through a priority filtering process soon and Sayers wants to see rural road funding remain intact.

He said the newly allocated funding would see $12.4 million spent annually which was a significant increase on the current $4 million spend and would greatly improve the rural roads. Most of the money would be spent in Rodney as it has most of the unsealed roading network. 

“The good news is the unsealed road opex budgets were already doubled early this year and hopefully the public will see the difference this is making over the next few months as the number of grading crews have been increased from three to five crews. That was the first big win for rural ratepayers.”

“However, we need a second big win and that is to increase the capex budget to get more road sealing done. They are different budgets and we need both pots of money to order to get the rural roads up to the standard ratepayers expect.

Sayers met with the Auckland Transport (AT) Board, with support from Rodney Local Board members, on September 26 with the backing of Mayor Wayne Brown, AT’s chief executive Dean Kimpton and all five rural councillors to fight to secure the additional $124 million of capex budget.

Following the meeting, he said the board was very receptive to his message.

“The chair, Wayne Donnelly, acknowledged the historic underfunding for unsealed roads,” Sayers said.

Sayers pointed out AT’s Statement of Intent (Auckland Council’s direction setting to Auckland Transport) specifically highlighted the need for equitable treatment for rural road maintenance and renewals. 

He says the Statement of Intent says AT must “ensure the whole of the Auckland region benefits evenly from the maintenance and renewals programme, including rural roads.

“My lobbying was about safeguarding the proposed increase from any cuts before it gets final approval in March next year,” Sayers said. “By presenting to the AT Board of Directors I was getting in early fighting so rural Rodney doesn’t get overlooked in favour of more spending in the CBD.”

The Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle put a spotlight on the vulnerability of rural roads and Sayers felt this contributed to a shift in priorities towards roading.

“If there was any highlight that came out of those events, it was a revived understanding of how vital these roads are,” he said.