There are no meetings in council this week.  So this week I am writing about roads.

I hear it often from all sorts of people ‘Our roads are terrible’. Well, actually people use a lot of different words than just ‘terrible’ but the message is the same: We have substandard roads.

At the most basic level, our roading network is broken up into two categories: local roads, and the state highways. Gisborne District council is responsible for the local roads and central government through NZTA is responsible for the state highways.

Up until earlier this year, council and NZTA had a joint collaboration called Tairawhiti Roads. The idea was to manage all the roads collectively; which makes sense. However, functionally it didn’t work. NZTA has a different way of working to council. Inside council we’ll take our budget and try to make it stretch and for the work to be balanced, whereas NZTA is guided by central government priorities and will deliver directly to those.

For council, we would look at the bridge for instance and say ‘we have this amount of money, a huge part of it is coming from central government for cycleways, so we have to make it cater for cycleway traffic too. How can we stretch this dollar to make the bridge make sense? How can we make both sides look the same but still cater for cycling?’

However, NZTA operates on a system that delivers solely on the project. If they have a budget for a cycleway crossing on the main bridge in Gisborne then they will only deliver on a cycleway crossing on the main bridge in Gisborne.

This is how we would end up with a bridge where one side is done up really nicely and to New Zealand’s highest standard, but the other side remains the same.

Despite Tairawhiti Roads being a collaborative initiative, I think it was still highly imbalanced towards central government’s and NZTA’s bureaucracy. They held the bulk of the purse strings, so they could call all the shots. NZTA are also the regulator of traffic safety. After the departure of their former CE and three of their board members last year, I would think a state highway plagued with potholes would be a low hanging fruit and a road safety high priority.

Fortunately our council staff thinks this way. Earlier this year, instead of sitting on our hands, waiting for NZTA to get over their dysfunction, we just sent workers from our local roads to repair our highways, because of how dangerous it was getting for the road user. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough to hold us over while we waited for the PGF/NZTA funding promised.

Tairawhiti Roads has always been staffed with amazing, locally invested people. But it’s failing was that it was still accountable to central government processes.

The One Road Network idea still has merit. I think the entire network should be managed by the council. NZTA should just give council the entire purse and jurisdiction over our state highway and we can just get on with it and do what we need to. NZTA can still regulate, but we should be the provider. In a closed off roading ecosystem like the coast, it’s definitely a feasible idea.

There is no other organisation that is more invested in making sure our roading network is quality and safe than the Gisborne District Council. Let’s regionalise roading!

I’m still happy about the PGF and NZTA announcements of increased funding to the Gisborne District. I’ll be happier when we actually get the money. However, I’ll be happiest with One Roading Network under council.

Council is staffed by people who use our roads. You elect people who drive them everyday. No one in Wellington could ever understand this like we do. Let’s regionalise our roads.

As always, happy to serve you Tairawhiti.