Road Repairs after Storms - FAQs

Digger clearing road February 2023

Here are answers to some questions we frequently receive about how roading repairs are carried out after storm damage. For a list of the 28 high-priority sites for repairs in the 2023/24 financial year (including Tapu-Coroglen Road, Black Jack Road and others) go to our Road Conditions page.

Why are our roads so vulnerable?

The majority of roads in the district are historic roads that were never designed or constructed to a standard. Road networks form over time from access tracks that joined communities. As usage changes and grows infrastructure is renewed to try to improve the route for the service required. This does mean some roads are built on old foundations and often means routes follow rivers, coastlines and valleys which can increase the impact of water during a storm. Steep terrain means many of our roads are often on slopes, making them more vulnerable to dropouts. The Coromandel is susceptible to weather events with the impact on our roads an unfortunate consequence.

Why don’t things get fixed instantly?

The focus during a storm and in the immediate aftermath is getting roads open and making roads safe for users (such as clearing materials and installing signage or even one-way controls). The next phase is on clearing materials, making sure things like drains and culverts are operating correctly and completing any minor repairs. Permanent repairs that require roads to be reinstated, routes altered, or walls built all go through an investigation, design, and construction process. This takes time but will ensure that any treatments are well thought through and will last. There is an obligation when spending public money that procedures are followed to ensure any spend is appropriate. Organising funding/budgets for the repair works is part of the investigation phase of permanent repair planning.

Who pays for reinstatement works?

Council roads in New Zealand are co-funded by the Council and by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. Central government contribute a subsidy to roading costs to assist with affordability for local councils. This contribution is managed via Waka Kotahi following strict investment rules and guidelines. Reinstatement works will be partly paid for by our Council and partly the Waka Kotahi contribution.

When a storm event happens council representatives assess the damage and establish an estimated cost for the repairs. This cost then goes through the council out of cycle budget request process and an application to Waka Kotahi for their share of the costs. Until these approvals are in place there is no funding available to start working on the repairs.

*Note: all works on State Highways are managed by Waka Kotahi and are fully funded by central government. These repairs are not included in the scope of works our Council is managing. Updates on State Highway works can be found on the Waka Kotahi website.

Why doesn’t council have a budget ready to go?

Our Council has some budget allocated for the immediate response based on the expectation that unplanned events will happen occasionally. This allows the response to the storm event to happen. There is no budget for permanent repairs set aside as the emergency works process with Waka Kotahi is set up to manage these situations.

The random nature of events makes forecasting for events challenging while having budget set aside would mean a reduction of budget somewhere else within Council's activities or an increase in rates to cover this. The process with Waka Kotahi works and makes sure everybody is following the rules. 

When will all the cyclone-damaged sites be fixed by?

There are currently more than 70 repair sites across our Council's local road network. A small number of these are from previous storm events in 2022 with the majority the result of storms in January (including Cyclone Hale) and the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023.

Full completion of all works is expected to take up to three years. Work will start with the highest priority site on Tapu-Coroglen Road and progressively work through the list. It is hoped that most sites will be done within two years but also accepted that it is a large list and there are many uncertainties. The 28 highest priority sites are programmed for 23/24.

Severity of the issue is part of the criteria for prioritising the order of works (a full lane missing would be more severe than a slump for example). If a site worsens then it could move higher up the priority list. This flexibility manages the risk of things getting worse whilst left untreated. 

How do we decide the priority of sites and order of repairs?

Priority is based on the impact to road users with factors being how severe the damage is (how much the road user is impacted) and how many people use the road (the number of people impacted by the issue). The likelihood of the site worsening is also considered when assessing impact on road users.

This means the most severe sites on the busiest routes will be the highest priority through to minor impacts on lower volume roads. Key routes joining communities (Tapu-Coroglen Rd, The 309 Rd, Black Jack Rd, Kennedy Bay Rd, Colville Rd) are the highest priority, this is reflected in the 23/24 programme.

There could be some advantages in completing lower priority works on these routes while we have contractors in the area. This will be considered but we would not want to miss a high priority site to fit in others that can wait. 

Why don’t we just cut a new road alignment and move on?

In most cases, our Council only owns a narrow corridor of land that the road is on. To retreat or change routes onto land not owned by Council will require purchasing of land from private ownership. Land purchase can be time consuming and costly.

Simply moving further way from an issue does nothing to repair the damage or address the cause, meaning the issue remains unresolved and a potential problem in the future.

Realignments or retreats are the right solution for some sites where the land is readily available for use and leaving the issue untreated is not expected to create problems in the future. Temporary retreats are used in some locations to get roads open; these are often with the help of adjacent landowners who we thank very much for their assistance.

Are all the cones necessary? Is this a waste of money?

Traffic management requirements are set by national standards which we are bound to comply with. The standards are designed to always keep road users and road workers safe. Yes, there is a cost to compliance, but it is done with the right intent and could save lives or prevent injuries. Members of the public stealing cones or throwing them down banks is an unnecessary cost that could be avoided if people didn’t do it.

Why can’t the contractor down the road just get on with it?

As already noted, there are strict procedures in place to ensure public money is responsibly spent. Similarly, there are rules regarding procurement of services from suppliers. While having rules and procedures could be seen as adding time it does mean that there is a transparent process and a fair playing field for all suppliers. Failing to follow the rules would mean Waka Kotahi would not provide their subsidy and all costs would then fall on the ratepayers.

Funding and traffic management approvals need to be in place before work can be done.

Work packages will be procured through a public tender process which gives all suppliers, including the contractor down the road, an opportunity to quote for work. Suppliers who are closer to work will by default have lower transport costs than suppliers from outside of the district. This should help local suppliers in the open tender market.

Council policy requires suppliers working directly for TCDC to have an approved Health & Safety management system. This is integral in Council meeting its requirements in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. A shared local authority pre-qualification has been set up which is managed by SHE Software Ltd. Contractors who do not have the H&S pre-qualification requirements are excluded from carrying out work for our Council. Further detail on applying for the SHE qualification can be found on the TCDC website under ‘Contracting to Council’.

How do consents work? Does this change within an emergency?

Consent requirements are set out in the Resource Management Act (the RMA) which is national legislation. Works that impact the environment will likely require a consent (earth works, new structures, works near waterways or the ocean, etc). The consent application process and compliance with consent requirements are managed by the Waikato Regional Council with the intent to safeguard from people riding roughshod over the environment to get work done. Non-compliance with consents can result in individuals being prosecuted.

Most permanent reinstatement sites require a consent. This means a consent application phase in the process and set criteria that need to be adhered to during construction. The consent application process often includes stakeholder and iwi liaison requirements.

There is a provision within the RMA to undertake works where there is an imminent danger to people or infrastructure without having a consent in place. A site that will continue to drop out unless we do something straight way would qualify but drop-out sites where we can make them safe and plan a managed response do not meet the criteria. While these sites may be an inconvenience, we cannot argue they are an imminent danger. Works on emergency sites still need to follow what would be required in a consent (i.e the rules are not ignored) and the consent process is completed retrospectively. There is a time saving but no real cost saving.

Do we need investigation and design? Is this a waste of time and money?

In the past roads were built without investigation or design; we are now living with the consequences. A good investment of public money reinstates the asset impacted (ie rebuilds the road). Investigation allows a better understanding of what caused the issue and provides inputs into designing a robust solution which avoids the same thing happening in the future.

Design allows selection of fit-for-purpose solutions, ensures engineering requirements and compliance are met and provides clear instructions for the construction phase. Having clear instructions for tender and construction streamlines this process and reduces the need for ad hoc decision making.

Spending time and money on getting things right works out the most cost-efficient way over the life of an asset. Do it once, do it right is the mindset.

Note: Some designed solutions may fail in the future if variables change. Lower cost treatments are sometimes considered worthwhile accepting some risk (eg a cut instead of a wall). These will from time to time require more work. When dealing with nature there are always uncertainties.

Can this work be done anytime or is there a construction season?

Ideally civil construction works are undertaken in the construction season from October through to March. Construction works have fewer delays in dry weather while doing work in winter is generally avoided as it is inefficient and therefore more expensive. With a work programme as big as the storm response we will be pushing to use the months on the fringe of the construction season as well where possible.

The RMA also prohibits certain activities during winter such as earthworks of a certain quantity.

If I am a contractor, how can I compete for this work?

Works will be tendered through public tender procedures via the Government platform GETS.

Invitations for a pre-qualification register have been advertised for suppliers to complete lower complexity sites. Suppliers on this register will have the opportunity to provide a price and methodology for sites as the designs become available. Tenders for more complex sites will come out to the market as standalone projects. Keep an eye on GETS.