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Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty was in Thames recently. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Funding local infrastructure not ‘political football’

Slips, cracks and surface flooding: three things that are not new to the Thames-Coromandel but came out in force over Auckland Anniversary Weekend.
With the Minister for Emergency Management, Kieran McAnulty, stating that the damaged Kōpū-Hikuai Rd was not going to be a cheap nor easy fix, The Profile asked what the government would do to invest in the roading network throughout the geographically-varied district.
“Funding is part of it. This Government has increased the funding that’s available to local councils for local roads, and it’s increased the funding available to councils when you do have a severe weather event, like an emergency fund, but the demand on that fund is such that it got exhausted quicker than we anticipated.
“So, it’s a much broader conversation around how this works,” he said.

“Ultimately, we’ve got to have a broader look. We know that [these weather events are] coming, we know that they’re going to be more severe and more frequent… How can we work with local government to try and prevent this?”
Minister McAnulty was in Thames last week to have a look at the damage the recent series of storms has inflicted on the district’s roading network and properties.
He also spoke to iwi and community health leaders, including representatives of iwi-based health provider Te Korowai Hauora O Hauraki and John McEnteer of the Hauraki Māori Trust Board.
He said the slip on the Kōpū-Hikuai Rd, which was still moving, was not going to be a cheap or easy fix, but he could give no details about potential cost or timeframe.
Instead, Minister McAnulty said he’d “love” if investment into Coromandel’s infrastructure could be recognised nationally and not “treated as a political football”.
“If we can just make a commitment across the political spectrum that if we want resilient roads in the face of climate change for rural communities, this is the sort of investment we need, and then it’s no longer treated as something to cut back on maintenance.”
Meanwhile, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s director of regional relationships in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, David Spiers, said the agency was “very conscious” of the Thames Coast Road and State Highway 25a transport network as being a “lifeline in the community”.
Higgins would be prioritising work along the Thames Coast Rd at the Ruamahunga Bay slip site to create a “network of accessibility” while state highway 25a was not available.
The Profile was not invited to view the slip damage at Kōpū-Hikuai, and were told that the call to allow media was made by Waka Kotahi and Civil Defence.
Numbers were limited as the site was still considered “live”, they said.
The agency expects to have initial information on the next steps in the repair and restoration of the highway to share with the public this week.