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Choking dust from metal roads could be a problem fewer Northlanders have to suffer from if the Northland Regional Council removes a ban on waste oil road sprays.
The Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council are urging the regional council to relax Regional Plan rules banning the use of oil sprays to suppress dust on metal roads.
Mayor Wayne Brown says his council receives up to 50 complaints a day in summer about dust nuisances caused by metal roads which make up more than two-thirds of the council’s 2530 km road network.
Road dust exacerbates respiratory conditions, such as asthma, threatens export fruit crops that need to meet stringent phyto-sanitary standards and gets onto roofs and into water tanks.
“Road dust is more than a nuisance, it is a health hazard.”
Mr Brown says the council isn’t sealing roads because the government is diverting subsidies for rural road seal extensions to Auckland motorways.
Applying a seal coat of waste oil is a cost-effective way of reducing dust nuisances near houses, orchards and food outlets, he says.
“We would only use the oil sprays on roads where it was wanted and there would be a cost to property owners who requested this service.”
His council and the Whangarei District Council are seeking the regional council’s permission to allow licensed contractors to use waste oil sprays under strictly-controlled conditions.
“The Northland Regional Council needs to understand that other regions in New Zealand, such as Southland, have regional plans that allow oil spraying to suppress road dust.”
Mr Brown says the regional council’s decision to ban oil sprays on the basis that they might cause cancer was ill-advised.
“You would have to eat the road for that to happen.”
The regional council had not balanced the real health hazards of dust and it supported the use of unsuitable dust suppressants.
“Alternative glycerol-based sprays have proved totally ineffectual and they are quite costly so this needs a fresh look.”
People who are keen to support the councils’ bid should email Mr Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to the Northland Regional Council or lobby their regional councillor.