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Much of the very first year of business of the old Blenheim Borough Council was spent debating how to pay for roads and bridges – today it’s still the biggest single area of cost for the Marlborough District Council.
More than one fifth of the Council’s operating budget goes into the bitumen and concrete, heavy machinery and manpower that keeps our roads and footpaths in good order. That’s about $17M every year.
One of the long-running debates within local government is how to fairly distribute between town and country ratepayers the cost of maintaining heavily used urban roads and often unsealed rural roads used by far fewer people. Unfortunately, the more remote areas are also often subject to significant storm damage. It’s caused healthy debate amongst councillors and led to some adjustment to the way roading rates are applied.
The Council has a fiscally efficient model for managing the roads it’s responsible for; everything except the state highways. Council contracts the work to the NZTA office; Marlborough Roads, gaining the advantage of national expertise and economies of scale.
However in the year ahead, as Council examines its budgets for the Long Term Plan, some of the roading projects that had been planned are likely to be deferred. Even with the big NZTA subsidies, which sometimes cover half the cost of our projects, Council has proposed deferring some work in order to hold down rates.
Amongst the suggested deferrals are seal extensions, some renewal works and some Blenheim CBD upgrade projects. We’ve also been able to make other savings by putting off some footpath renewals until work is finished laying the fibre optic cable around Blenheim.
Members of the public are invited to make their views known on the details of the roading budget in the draft Long Term Plan.
Read the Long Term Plan summary in the Midweek Express on 18 April - or get the full document on the Council website www.marlborough.govt.nz
Submissions on the Long Term Plan opened 5 April and the final date for submissions is 10 May 5.00 pm.