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Upgrading roads a top priority

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Gisborne District Council is now mostly moved into its new building. Without doubt it will have been designed and built to meet every building code best-practice standard so that all who are working inside can be assured they are in a safe and productive working environment well into the future.

Pre-Christmas, Tairawhiti Roads featured in The Herald outlining revised budgets and promises of significant roading upgrade programmes. This is good news, yet well overdue — in particular for roads on the East Coast. Several of our District Council-managed internal roads are being addressed, which is welcome news for motorists and cyclists.

Over the holiday break I spent time with an area executive representative of the Road Transport Association of NZ, and found it interesting to understand the role this agency plays throughout New Zealand.

The mission statement of the Road Transport Forum is to create and sustain the environment within New Zealand in which the road transport industry can grow and prosper, and to assist members of the constituent associations to realise their business goals.

The constituent associations are broken down into six regional associations. Gisborne falls within the Bay of Plenty/South Waikato/Poverty Bay/Taupo association, with our representative based in Hamilton. Their work is extensive, including the following key areas:

• Represents the interests of road transport operators nationally

• Lobbies central and local government and responds to government initiatives affecting the industry

• Actively promotes the industry’s interests with key policy setting and enforcing government departments, such as the Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency

• Works closely with major industry suppliers including oil companies, truck and trailer manufacturers and tyre companies

• Supports the industries’ training organisation

• Keeps members fully informed on matters affecting their business and the industry as a whole.

Road transport issues across Tairawhiti are complex, particularly because of our geology. The predominant issue now though is the increasing number of logging trucks, which regularly take the brunt of criticism for damage to our local road network.

However, unless there is a financially viable and sustainable alternative, getting the logs to our local port — and hopefully to a growing local wood-processing sector — will require an increasing number of log truck movements every day.

As Port Eastland develops plans to accommodate dual berthing (allowing two log ships to be berthed and loaded at a time), our local roading and transport decision-makers must prioritise getting roads ready for the extra load. They also need to keep conscious of the safety factor for our community.

With the likelihood that more and more trees will be planted, it is timely to remember that we do need to ensure that good, productive pastoral land is not taken out.

It is worth noting the value of forestry vs farming loads:

Logs $125 per tonne

Lamb $5000 per tonne

Beef $5500 per tonne

Wool $2500 per tonne.

A truck-load of logs is worth $3750 while a truck-load of steers is worth about $60,000.

The transport weight produced off a forest of pinus radiata is also about 20 times that for a farm when annualised.

Terry Sheldrake, Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive

Posted: Monday 15 January 2018