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Rural roads dangerously underfunded

Roads in New Zealand’s rural communities are dangerously unsafe after years of funding neglect, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

Speaking at Fieldays today, he said the underfunding was chronic, and was costing lives.

“Over the past seven years the Government has continuously underfunded regional roading, focusing instead on urban highways at the expense of rural road sealing and maintenance.

“Our figures reveal a $163 million drop in real terms for road funding outside Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury under this Government. That has seen significantly higher numbers of accidents in those underfunded communities – an average of 237 accidents per 100,000 people versus 210 nationwide.

“New Zealand’s rural communities and regional cities are suffering at the expense of the Government’s pet city projects. That stunts growth as infrastructure is vital to the success of local businesses and agriculture in cities like Hamilton, Gisborne and in Northland, Southland and Hawke’s Bay.

“Last year the Government rushed through an announcement of $212 million of regional road funding but like so many National promises, that has already been broken with less than half of that money included in the Budget. “This Government only cares about the regions when they think there are votes to be had. They pay lip service to the things that really matter to our communities – a strong, diverse economy, schools, hospitals and of course, roads.

“Roads matter to regional communities and are a vital part of rural economies. They cannot be allowed to fall into disrepair or be passed over for big city projects. A Labour Government would focus on revitalising our regions, and make sure they have the infrastructure they need,” says Andrew Little.