Road sealing


The level of service we provide for unsealed roads

Timaru District, like many Districts across New Zealand, has a large length of unsealed roads.

In general, our unsealed roads are managed affordably, with a fit for purpose level of service that the community can afford.  In comparison with our other rural provincial counterparts our unsealed network performs well. Depending on traffic use, sections of certain roads will require metalling (shingle/gravel), this is considered on a network-wide view. Generally grading is enough to keep most low traffic roads in a suitable condition. Council staff regularly inspect and monitor unsealed roads, including using roughness technology measurement systems to check condition and plan future maintenance works.  The level of service on an unsealed road is obviously lower than a sealed road, so slower speeds on these roads are generally required. When a road falls below the agreed level of service, unsealed pavement renewals are programmed. These generally happen from Autumn through to Spring when there is more moisture around.

Unfortunately, it is unaffordable for all roads in our network to be sealed. The short-term upgrade cost, as well as the ongoing maintenance cost for a sealed road is significantly higher than an unsealed road.  These extra costs would need to be met by the ratepayer, and it is unlikely that this would be a financially prudent use of ratepayer funds.

Find out more below about how the Council maintains unsealed roads and how we prioritise sealing sections of roads.

Frequently asked questions

But why can't all the roads be sealed?

We estimate that it would cost $400 million to seal all the unsealed roads in the District. Assuming we sealed 40km a year at a cost of $20 million per year, this would add about 30% to each property's rates bill per year, on top of which there would be higher ongoing maintenance costs. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be affordable for most people.

Who picks the roads to be sealed?

Roads are selected for sealing according to a prioritisation matrix. This matrix ensures that decisions are made fairly and objectively according to the data, and not by individuals, in order to achieve the greatest benefit for people in our district. The matrix is made up of:

  • Traffic volumes;
  • Number of houses on the section of road proposed to be sealed;
  • Economic benefits (likely cost / benefit ratio);
  • Road hierarchy (importance of road in the Timaru District roading network).

Each of these factors is evaluated as high, medium or low, and given a rating score. And each factor has its own weighting. When the rating score and weighting are combined, potential seal extension projects can be ranked from highest to lowest score to determine their relative priority order.

How do I find out which roads will be sealed next?

Currently, there are no plans to seal any additional roads.

Council has major project planning and funding cycles every three years. These are known as Long Term Plans.  The Long Term Plan Consultation Document contains details of proposed future seal extensions.

What is Council's average annual budget for road sealing?

On average, Council has a budget of between $100k-$300k per year for seal extensions, and this only covers joint projects where adjacent landowners contribute 50% of the total project cost.

What about all the trucks?

Trucks are an important part of our local economy and distribution network, servicing farms and transporting freight. We appreciate that trucks can create nuisances for residents on unsealed roads, and we work closely with major transport providers in the District. Where large volumes of truck movements occur on unsealed roads, we may increase maintenance on these unsealed roads as required.

Why is only part of my road sealed?

It is not economical or affordable for ratepayers to seal all roads in their entirety. Some parts of a road may be of higher priority and significance for sealing than other parts of the same road.

Can I seal my own road?

Possibly, but all seal extensions must be approved by the Infrastructure Committee.

Please note:

  • Seal extensions do not qualify for Waka Kotahi funding assistance.
  • Approved seal extensions are subject to the applicant meeting 50% of the costs of the seal extension.
  • Given that the average cost of sealing a lineal kilometre is approximately $500,000, seal extensions will require a significant contribution on your part.
  • All sealing work must meet Council standards and generally adjoin an existing seal.

View our Seal Extension Policy for more information.

How can I drive safely on unsealed roads?

Here are some tips for driving safely on unsealed roads:

1. Accelerate slowly. Do not spin your wheels, especially through gear changes, or when entering onto unsealed roads from a driveway or another road.

2. Slow down. Slowing down helps reduce dust nuisance and loose shingle.

3. Avoid hard braking. This will reduce potholes and intersection corrugations.

How do I request maintenance of my unsealed road?

There are a number of ways you can request maintenance. You can:

Last updated: 09 May 2024