The increasing levels of death and destruction on our roads has been a major issue for us this year. One of our complaints with previous government’s singular focus on a handful of large, expensive and gold plated projects was that it sucked funding away from a lot of valuable, low cost safety improvements.
With a new government, that’s now set to change and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has announced the first improvements.
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced a short term boost in road safety funding this summer and signalled a renewed focus from the Government on introducing safer speed limits.
Over summer the NZ Transport Agency will roll out an additional $22.5 million worth of low-cost safety improvements on rural State highways across Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Whanganui, Canterbury, Otago and Southland. The funding has been re-allocated from within the State highways budget.
“The number of people losing their lives on our roads has increased every year for the past five years. When things are this bad government has a responsibility to act,” said Ms Genter.
“The Boost Safety Programme is the first step. Improvements will include rumble strips, signage and safety barriers on rural roads where there is a real risk of death and serious injuries.
“Many deaths and injuries can be avoided on these roads by making some relatively simple changes. For example, we know rumble strips can reduce all crashes by around 25 percent and fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent.
“Despite what many people think, improving road safety is not just about getting people to drive better. It’s also about making our roads much safer, so that when people make mistakes lives aren’t lost. On too many of our roads a simple error, such as taking a corner too fast or being momentarily distracted, can be fatal.
“That is why the government will be investing more in safety barriers, rumble strips and targeted speed limit changes. Next year, the Government will further increase funding for road safety improvements as we revise the overall transport budget.
“I’ve also written to the NZ Transport Agency Board and all local councils to make it clear that setting more appropriate speed limits on high-risk stretches of road will be a priority for this government.
“The Government will hold a road safety summit early next year so that we can hear directly from councils about the barriers to and opportunities for improving road safety,” said Ms Genter.
The NZ Transport Agency will begin engagement with communities on the proposed safety improvements before Christmas, with work starting in February.
That’s a lot of roads that are going to be improved for what is a tiny portion of our transport budget. To put that spending in perspective, in the 2016/17 financial year the NZTA spent over $1.2 billion on ‘New and Improved Infrastructure’ on State Highways. This spending would represent just 1.8% of that. That $1.2b also doesn’t include an additional $630 million spent on State Highway ‘Maintenance, Operations and Renewals’.
Perhaps the previous government could have done with some rumble strips because clearly they were asleep at the wheel in ignoring low cost improvements like this. Speaking of them, here’s what National has to say about the announcement.
National’s transport spokesperson Judith Collins said the quality of the road was key to road safety not the speed limit.
“We also need to be aware that we’ve got trucks and cars travelling at speed and every time there is a slowdown, it slows everything down – so we just need to be a little bit realistic about it,” she said.
“The quality of the road is absolutely crucial and I’d like to see this government actually do something about that.”
Perhaps National could have done something about the road quality over the last 9 years.