Ruapehu vegetable growers stuck on the wrong side of the tracks can finally celebrate after Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) agreed to fund the replacement of two rail overbridges.
Weight restrictions and compliance cameras have been in place on the Ruapehu Rd and Mangateitei Rd rail over-bridges between Ohakune and Rangataua, following engineers reports on the ageing structures earlier this year.
Vegetable growers have been seriously hampered by the new weight restrictions, which barely cover the weight of the trucks, let alone the produce.
The Ruapehu District Council was relying on Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) to come through with most of the funding for the two bridges, having budgeted $1.2 million of the $4.6 million cost.
In June this year Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron warned that the two bridge replacements could be the tip of the iceberg for Ruapehu and the rest of the country.
Ruapheu has 341 old bridges including large culverts, the majority of which were built about 100 years ago.
“Multiply this situation across rural New Zealand there is likely to be a large bow wave of aging bridge stock vital to the economy that small regional councils cannot afford to renew.”
Mayor Cameron says confirmation of the funding last week for replacing the two bridges was great news and would be well received by local growers and contractors.
“Council would like to thank Waka Kotahi NZTA for their support of these projects in a period of funding constraint and increased competition from other regional transport demands.”
Cameron says they did well out of the 2021/24 funding allocation given the moderation Waka Kotahi NZTA had been signalling to councils.
“We feel $48.3 million for maintenance and renewal for the next three-years is a reflection of Waka Kotahi NZTA's support of Government's strategic priorities, namely safety, better travel options, improved freight connections, and climate change.
“We have received all we applied for toward speed management, the national Road to Zero (road safety) strategy, and for the Ohakune Mountain Road, but only a quarter of what we wanted for minor improvements which was consistent around NZ with this fund being over-subscribed.”
He says with inflation pressures on construction projects as a result of Covid-19 and the council’s Funding Assistance Rating (FAR) dropping from 75 per cent to 74 per cent from next financial year, the roading team will be under pressure to maintain levels of service and satisfaction in the local road network.