This is a guest post from Bevan Woodward. He is the project director for SkyPath and spokesperson for Movement, an alliance of national organisations seeking safe journeys for active transport users. [email protected]
Last week Julie Anne Genter released an evaluation report on the previous Government’s road safety strategy. Prepared in 2015 by Martin Small Consulting for the Ministry of Transport, the report provides an interesting insight and critique on the internal workings of New Zealand’s road safety management – and all its key players.
It quickly becomes apparent that improvements to our road safety had stalled primarily due to the lack of political support. The report refers to staff lacking “the political mandate to undertake the detailed consultation, negotiation and persuasion to manage change in contentious safety areas” and “there was not a strong political champion for road safety”.
The report also states the sector was prone to “bursts of courage followed by periods of antipathy” and addresses key parties who need to front up. An example is Accident Compensation Corporation, described as “running hot and cold with their involvement which has been sporadic” and “could be playing a far more significant role in road safety”. The report makes a point of questioning why ACC motor vehicle levies were substantially reduced in 2015 when we could be “significantly increasing investment in road injury prevention as a means of reinvesting in the long term sustainability of the motor vehicle account.”
The Police role is challenged with “New Zealand’s overall speed enforcement programme needs major reform”. The report comments that “there is a very low level of speed camera deployment in New Zealand compared with Australian jurisdictions” and “the standard enforcement tolerance of 10 km/h is well above what can be considered good practice”.
Likewise the National Road Safety Committee and the KiwiRAP partnership of the AA, Ministry of Transport and NZTA is challenged with getting on with implementation of the safer speeds programme given “Speed limits were often regarded as too high”.
The report summarises the situation: “Firmer government leadership from senior public sector executives and Ministers will be necessary and some will need to put their stamp on pivotal actions for [road safety] performance to substantially improve.”
As an advocate for road safety during these years, none of this really surprised me – except to see it so clearly spelt out in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Transport. Questions need to be asked of the National Government’s Ministers of Transport and Police at the time: Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett. Are the road safety interventions described above really too contentious for them? Due to their lack action, our road trauma increased and New Zealanders have died unnecessarily.
I can only hope that our new Government delivers on its objective of safer roads by providing the requisite level of political support in the public domain.
Editors note: As of Friday morning, 398 people have died on NZ over the last 12 months. That is up from a low of 249 in February 2014 and the last time it was this high was in November 2009.