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‘We simply cannot afford to:’ Hawke’s Bay leaders desperate for cyclone-damaged road and bridge fixes

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Hawke’s Bay leaders are calling for more government funding to rebuild roads and bridges extensively damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle.

A meeting was held on Wednesday between Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and local representatives, including local mayors and mana whenua.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said in her district alone, damage to bridges and roads totalled $1.1 billion.

If the government wants to achieve its goal of doubling exports, it needs to help regions repair damaged infrastructure, Hawke's Bay leaders say. Photo / NZTA / Waka Kotahi
If the government wants to achieve its goal of doubling exports, it needs to help regions repair damaged infrastructure, Hawke’s Bay leaders say. Photo / NZTA / Waka Kotahi

She told RNZ’s Morning Report on Thursday the meeting – which included Luxon, Transport Minister Simeon Brown, Emergency Management and Recovery Minister Mark Mitchell and Hinewai Ormsby, chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council – was “very successful”.

“We simply cannot afford to manage this through our rates and… deal with our rebuild of our roads and bridges.”

Hawke’s Bay leaders call for more government funding to rebuild the region’s extensively damaged roads and bridges.
Hawke’s Bay leaders call for more government funding to rebuild the region’s extensively damaged roads and bridges.

Hazlehurst said the region’s transport network was vulnerable and the community, especially those in rural areas, were “really struggling with commuting” into town every day.

“With the temporary bridges, it’s really a big struggle, so they’ve heard us loud and clear.”

But there remained a $700 million shortfall, she said, even after millions in funding from the government last year.

“We have a financial assistance rate now, and we’ve asked for an increase of that as an emergency financial assistance rate to help us rebuild, and also for grant funding to be able to get the roads and bridges back in a timely manner – less than seven years.

“We put our case very loud and clear… it is about our region’s productivity, standing up our export economy again and supporting, you know, all of our primary industries to just get back on their feet.

“It’s just been a really, really challenging and difficult time, and it’s a national disaster, Cyclone Gabrielle, so we can’t just manage it in the regions on our own.”

She hoped to “hear soon” on whether more funding would be coming soon, considering the approaching Budget.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said in her district alone, damage to bridges and roads totalled $1.1 billion.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said in her district alone, damage to bridges and roads totalled $1.1 billion.

Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker said without additional government funding, local councils were “staring down the barrel of decades’ worth of work at the current government funding rate or, alternatively, rate rises that would cripple the community for years to come”.

“If we can get the funding assistance we need however, we can complete the work in five to six years, get our primary sector and overall economy back on its feet sooner and position Hawke’s Bay as a key player in helping this government with its goal of doubling the value of exports in the next 10 years.”

Having numerous roads and bridges out of action was an impediment to farmers getting their produce out, she said.

“We understand the impact also extends beyond the economy and for some in our communities, extended travel times are taking a toll financially and mentally.”



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