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Regional council concerned about proposed government subsidy cuts for transport

Waikato Regional Council is concerned services will be cut or rates will have to rise as a result of plans to either reduce or remove government transport subsidies.

The council wants to work with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to find alternatives to their proposed changes to the funding assistance rates. These rates help to fund the national benefits associated with public transport facilities and infrastructure, road user safety and transport planning.

In real terms, if they went ahead, the changes would result in:

  • A $400,000 funding reduction for road safety community programmes.
  • A cut of $100,000 to $200,000 per annum for transport studies and strategies, which help to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of the transport network in Waikato and neighbouring regions. 
  • A cut in funding to local councils for public transport infrastructure, including bus stops, shelters and signs.
  • The removal of the $500,000 grant for regional land transport planning, of vital importance to ensure a planned and integrated transport network is provided for our region.

Details of the proposed changes to come into effect in July 2012 were outlined during yesterday’s policy and strategy committee, with chairperson Paula Southgate saying the funding shortfall could have far-reaching consequences in the Waikato.

“We acknowledge the tight financial circumstances we’re all in and hope that by working with the NZTA we will find a workable solution on funding assistance rates,” she said.

“As they are, these proposed changes will result in an increased and unfair burden on local and regional councils. To offset the funding cut and maintain robust transport planning, road safety promotion programmes and public transport infrastructure, a local rates increase could be needed.

“The only other alternative would be a drop in our current level of service and programme delivery across these work programmes,” Cr Southgate said. 

“Of particular concern for our region is the significant reduction in investment in road safety promotion, which plays an important role in driving down the road toll. Funding will be effectively halved in the Waikato, which has a higher proportion of road deaths than any other region in the country.

“I am also concerned at the impacts of these potential funding cuts on public transport facilities and infrastructure, particularly in an area which is already facing pressures to increase services with already constrained finances.”

It was acknowledged during the committee meeting that the overall tightening of national expenditure reflected the current economic climate.

The committee also heard details of proposed legislation changes affecting the regional council’s transport planning activities. These changes could result in some cost savings, but are not likely to come into effect until late 2012.

Meanwhile, the multi-agency Waikato Regional Transport Committee is making a detailed submission raising concerns about the impact of the proposed changes. The committee includes regional council and local territorial authority representatives.

The regional council will also write to the NZTA strongly supporting the Waikato Regional Transport Committee’s submission.

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