Improvements to forestry access roads have received a boost with the Northland Regional Council and the New Zealand Forestry Owners Association managing to secure another three years of funding for the work.
However the $30 million in extra money from the Ministry of Transport must be shared between the Northland and Gisborne (Tairawhiti) regions, which both have extensive forestry areas.
NRC planning and policy manager Glenn Mortimer says the two regions have shared $71 million in funding for upgrading key forestry routes on arterials roads over the past five years.
The Regional Development Fund was established in 2002 as part of the Government’s regional economic transformation agenda. It is targeted toward increasing investment in wood processing by removing roading constraints on forest harvesting activity in Northland and Tairawhiti regions.
In Northland the 100% road funding has been used by the Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei district councils mainly on upgrading Mangakahia Road, Otaika Valley Road, West Coast Road north of Hokianga and Pouto Road. About 236 kilometres of roads have been upgraded so far.
Tairawhiti region has upgraded about 263km.
There is estimated to be about $26 million of work remaining.
Mr Mortimer says the extra $30 million was a big achievement in lobbying at political and staff levels, but now detailed negotiations between representatives of the two regions will be needed to establish how the money would be allocated.
Between 2004 and 2007, log intake in Northland increased from 1.2 million tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes and the proportion of processed timber within the region increased from about half to 80 percent.
“There is a clear benefit to Northland’s economy that has come from the upgrading of these roads,’’ Mr Mortimer says.
“Now that we have considerable investment in Northland with new or expanded wood processing facilities – such as Juken Nissho Limited’s triboard mill in Kaitaia, and Carter Holt Harvey’s Laminated Veneer Lumber plant at Marsden Point and new mill in Port Road, Whangarei – there is a need to provide a security of log supply to these facilities.
“This will be a fundamental consideration to decisions being made about where the extra money will be spent over the next three years,’’ he says.