Forest owners praise Government roading initiative

20 Sep 2004

Forest owners say a scheme set up by the government in 2002 to fund the development of roads in major forest-growing regions is working well.

Northland and the East Coast – regions which have large areas of plantation forest reaching maturity during the next few years – are receiving $25 million in special regional development road funding this year. The government has said it will continue funding the programme for 10 years.

NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive Rob McLagan says working groups have been set up in the two regions involving Transfund, local district and regional councils, and the forest industry.

"It's been something of an educational process for all involved. The forest industry has its priorities. Councils and Transfund have theirs.

"Now we understand each other's needs. We also share a commitment to ensure the community gets maximum benefit from the funds available."

Derek Colebrook, co-chair and co-ordinator of the Northland Regional Roading Group, says specialist forest roading companies have been encouraged to tender for projects in his region and this has helped keep costs down.

"We're not building highways. We are designing and building roads which are 'fit for purpose'. The priorities are to have adequate pavement strength for heavy trucks, good visibility on corners and – where appropriate – passing bays," he says.

"In some areas, the passing bays are numbered. This enables drivers to talk to each other on the RT and agree on a passing bay where one truck can wait to let the other pass.

"Forestry companies have also provided RTs to school buses on some of these routes, so they can talk to the log truck drivers too."

Sheldon Drummond, an industry representative on the East Coast regional development roading group, says the special funding has proved excellent for the region.

"The East Coast had a very run-down roading infrastructure and has a challenging terrain. Without special government assistance it was hard to see how the region could have afforded to build the roads it needs."

He says the regional working group had agreed on priorities and standards and was making real headway.

"The main strategic priority is to build roads which facilitate the flow of logs to further processing facilities which will create jobs and wealth for the region. If the logs from a forest are just going to the port for export, then the funding will have to come from elsewhere," says Drummond.

"We are strictly adhering to this principle. The government justified the special funding on the basis that it would facilitate further processing."

Transfund requires regional development road funding to be used for arterial access routes. Access roads are required to be funded by councils from their annual roading budgets, which are also subsidised by Transfund by up to 60 per cent.

For more information, please contact:

Rob McLagan, Chief Executive, NZ Forest Owners Association. Tel 04 473 4769 (w) or 04 237 9022 (h). Mobile 0274 421 918 Derek Colebrook, Co-chairman and liaison person, Northland Regional Development Fund Working Group. Mobile 021 902 593

Sheldon Drummond, Member, East Coast Regional Development Fund Working Group. Tel 06 867 8398, Mobile 0274 438 496