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John MacDonald: Here's why South Island roads are so bad

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Feb 2024, 1:11PM
Photo / NZ Herald | File
Photo / NZ Herald | File

John MacDonald: Here's why South Island roads are so bad

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Feb 2024, 1:11PM

How many times over the past couple of years have we said that our local MPs are next to invisible and not doing enough to push our case up in Wellington?  

You don’t need to come up with a specific number. But, trust me, it’s somewhere between truckloads and truckloads.  

And what about local councillors? How many times have we said that they’re doing nothing either to remind Wellington that we exist?  

Same answer. Somewhere between truckloads and truckloads.   

And today, we have evidence to prove that what we suspected, or thought we knew, is actually true. And it comes via a briefing paper written for the new Transport Minister Simeon Brown.  

It’s one of a whole raft of briefing papers that were provided to the new coalition government, and we’ve been hearing about them in the news because, yesterday, they were released to the public.  

And there are two key statistics in the paper that was written for the Transport Minister, that have a transport planner saying today that here in our neck of the woods we have been short-changed when it comes to spending on our roads.  

Twenty-five percent of the population lives in the South Island. That’s the first statistic. Now guess how much of the Government’s spend on roading comes to the South Island? Nine percent.  

So, a quarter of New Zealand’s population lives in the South, but less than a 10th of the funding for roads comes here.  

If you look at Canterbury, in particular, on the basis of roading projects underway at the moment and the amount of government money being spent on them - and you compare it to the amount spent in Wellington, then I think we have every reason to feel hard done by.  

Here in Canterbury there are 23 projects underway worth a total of $1.4 billion. In Wellington, there are 44 projects underway worth $3.5 billion.  

Which has Transport planner Axel Downard-Wilke in the news today saying the South Island has always been underfunded by successive governments, and he says the blame lies fairly and squarely with our South Island MPs and local councillors.  

Here’s a taste of what he’s saying today: “South Island MPs have never really effectively campaigned for the South Island getting its fair share and neither is that something that the local councillors in Christchurch have ever been doing in any effective form or shape.”  

And I couldn’t agree with him more.  

He’s also saying today: “It’s just unsatisfactory and when you look at funding for Wellington and Christchurch it’s even more stark.”  

I think he’s generous, saying it’s “unsatisfactory”. I’d say something more along the lines of “it’s hopeless”. Or even stronger.    

But, you know, it’s a classic case of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. And that’s what this transport planner is saying - our South Island MPs and our local councillors haven’t asked, and so they haven’t got.  

Maybe our case isn’t helped by the muppets at the Christchurch City Council who love to blow government money on roading projects like that monstrosity they’ve created in Gloucester Street, in town.  

You’ll know this one. Blowing more than a million bucks on the planter box trial. Have you actually been there recently? I drove down it the other day and it just looks like some kids have gone there and dragged some planter boxes into the middle of the road for a laugh. Just to be a pain in the backside.  

So maybe the government looks at Canterbury and thinks, either we don’t need any new or upgraded roads because the people who are supposed to have their fingers on the pulse - our MPs and local councillors - aren’t banging the table, demanding more funding.  

Or maybe they look at the Christchurch council, especially, and the Gloucester Street experiment and think we only know how to pour money down the drain.  

Either way, the share of roading investment we are getting - in relation to the number of people who live here in the South Island - is pitiful. More to the point, though, so is the effort that our central and local government politicians are making to get more funding for roads here. 

And it’s only going to get worse, unless these politicians do what they should be doing, and start lobbying hard for more funding here in the South.   

Auckland has Wayne Brown and, in the past month or so, he’s been going all-out to make sure his city gets its fair share of roading funding.  

Example. Here’s something he said late last year: “The Government has underfunded road renewals in Auckland for years. They must fully fund their share of the spend and I will be lobbying the minister and Waka Kotahi to make sure this happens.”  

Hear that? Wayne Brown is going to be lobbying hard. Doing exactly what he should be doing. 

Meanwhile, in Christchurch, our mayor is campaigning to get the Commonwealth Games here. It makes you despair, doesn't it? 

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