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Some roads may not qualify for a WOF 

In brief
  • A 2020 report identified roads that cannot withstand bad weather. 
  • NIWA data is not clear that extreme weather is any worse than it used to be.
  • The thing about true 100 year weather. It is rare and crazy expensive to build everything to withstand it. 

Delaying road projects

Earlier this month the Minister for Transport, Michael Wood, indicated the possibility of delaying the implementation of some major roading projects in New Zealand. The government was reassessing projects within the $8.7 billion upgrade program due to significant cost overruns.

An appeal to the Ombudsman revealed that many of the projects are at risk of exceeding their budgets. Wood stated that while there will be no major cuts, adjustments and cost-saving measures may be implemented as projects progress.

National’s transport spokesman, Simeon Brown, criticized the Government for potential cancellations and misleading the public. Brown has also pointed to significant reductions in maintenance funding. 

Some roads may not qualify for a WOF  - Centrist
Michael Wood is the Minister for Transport.

Insights from the budget

In the budget last week, the government allocated six billion dollars for transport resilience. The Transport Minister then acknowledged the need to abandon certain roads due to the effects of extreme weather. 

It turns out Waka Kotahi had not been sufficiently considering weather events and durability in its transport projects.

A 2020 report criticized the agency for reactive decision-making and inefficient investment choices, highlighting over 350 risks to the national roading network, including over three dozen deemed extreme risks. In some cases there are no alternate routes.

The Transport Minister emphasized the importance of making informed long-term decisions to ensure the durability of assets in a future affected by climate change. But whether it is climate change or just extreme weather, it looks like more attention to resilience will be added to the planning. This could include raising bridge heights or exploring different routes.

Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter highlighted the importance of investing in rail and sea transport to address the needs of communities that might be isolated during extreme weather events. Wood indicated the Government may explore this option. 

He emphasized the importance of engaging with communities to ensure their essential transport needs are met. 

Wood acknowledged that, in extreme cases, damaged infrastructure might not be rebuilt. 

Is the weather really that much worse?

Extreme weather is constantly being touted as the excuse for this failing infrastructure, but NIWA data doesn’t necessarily show it to be any worse than in “the good old days”. Building everything to extreme standards, especially something that is not a safety issue and can be rebuilt quickly, may not end up being realistic.

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