Transport spending, like everything else, is all about trade-offs. There are a lot of improvements to be made and only a limited pot of funding from which do them and so those improvements need to be prioritised. One of the most urgent priorities is to improving safety.

Last year at least 380 people died on New Zealand’s roads, the highest figure since 2009 – and it peaked during the year even higher.

For every death, there are usually around 10 serious injuries, which can have major life-changing impacts for those involved as well. We also know that almost half of the deaths (48%) occur on rural state highways, many of which have barely changed since they were first built, where a combination of high speeds and relatively little protection from oncoming traffic means that small mistakes like momentary lapses in concentration can quickly become serious tragedies.

How we address safety is seeing significant debate though, especially following the government’s announcement late last year of a significant safety programme that will see improvements like median barriers, shoulder widening, rumble strips and speed limit changes rolled out across 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways by 2021. To put that in perspective, we have just under 11,000km of state highway so this represents improvements to about 8% of the state highway network. Even more is being invested to improve road safety on local roads over that time frame too.

This is being challenged by the National Party and locals in some areas who claim the only real solution to many of these problems is to build 4-lane highways.

The problem is that while 4-lane highways are safer, they are also very expensive, take a long time to build and use up a lot of resources so we can’t build many of them at any one time. This is something highlighted by the fact that of the initial seven Roads of National Significance (RoNS) the former government announced 10 years ago, only two have been fully completed and parts of some haven’t started. Funding the RoNS sucked a lot of money out of other transport funding activities, like road policing, and saw many smaller, often more valuable projects delayed. I suspect many of the safety projects now being progressed are ones that were put off in favour of the RoNS. So the previous government traded-off being able to make a lot of cheap upgrades across a significant proportion of the network with being able to make some very high quality upgrades but only to a few roads.

In terms of safety, in some cases, like Puhoi to Warkworth, building a parallel 4-lane road also leaves the existing road unchanged meaning it will remain unsafe for those who still use them after the motorway has been completed.

Because so few major four-lane highways can be afforded at any one time, and because so little money was left in transport budgets for other investments, the previous government’s approach to road safety on rural highways ended up in an “all or nothing” situation. Nothing happened on pretty dire parts of the road network, like the Dome Valley, because the focus was on spending all the money on a few mega-projects.

Some of the challenges and choices that need to be made are spelled out quite clearly in a detailed article last week about State Highway 1 just south of Whangarei. What’s not in doubt though is the need for significant safety improvements on this stretch of road:

State Highway 1 is Northland’s most significant link to the rest of the country, but one section is also the region’s biggest killer.

Since 2008, 19 people have died on the road which runs from just south of Whangārei at Toetoe Rd, to the roundabout with Port Marsden Highway near Ruakākā.

More than 40 people were seriously injured during the same period, and then there were those who survived narrow misses and lucky escapes.

Northland roading officials and local body politicians are continuing to push for a four-lane highway, citing safety, access and resilience as extremely important reasons. But a change of government has seen a different focus on roading and meant the four lanes are now not an option.

Politicians agree the stretch of road must be improved but instead of a four-lane Highway, an alternate road, running parallel to the existing state highway, has been given the go ahead  for the long term while safety improvements continue in the interim. Those improvements include florescent poles on the centre line, more passing lanes, pullover bays and upgraded intersections and median and side barriers.

The article includes a video of the death and serious injury locations on this section of road

This stretch of road is a good example of how different approaches to addressing road safety between the last government and the current government can play out. If you look individually at this road, then you can see how a four-lane highway would be attractive to local politicians. It will fully resolve the safety problems and provide enough capacity to probably eliminate any congestion for a long time to come. It also has the benefit that by being a state highway, the cost of any upgrade is fully paid for by the NZTA. In this particular example, 4-laning was expected to cost $400-500 million and after construction started, take up to seven years to fully complete. In the meantime, people will likely continue to be killed and injured.

It’s hard to imagine this approach being accepted in any other industry. It would be like a toy company putting out a new toy that due to poor design started killing children but instead of immediately pulling it from shelves, promised to redesign it but keep selling the deadly version until that happens.

The new plan is to make urgent safety improvements then look to build a new parallel road on a better alignment

“To begin with we will deliver short-term safety improvements between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway to make it safer, such as roadside barriers, median barriers, centre-line widening and improved road marking,” Gliddon says.

“At the same time we will continue to future proof for a new route between Whangārei and SH15. Along with the existing road, this will create four lanes of capacity. Land will be designated for a future transport corridor to be built on a better alignment and to the best safety standards.”

You could say the new strategy is we need to eat our vegetables (fix safety issues) before we can have dessert (4-lane upgrades).

Of course in some places it makes sense to build a four-lane expressway, where the traffic volumes and other impacts (e.g. diverting large traffic volumes away from running right through the middle of towns like Warkworth or Kumeu) justify such a large-scale investment. The problem is that until recently there hasn’t seemed to be much logic behind choosing between:

  1. Where minor safety upgrades are the best fix.
  2. Where more significant ‘on line’ upgrades make the most sense.
  3. Where new alignments are required.
  4. Where a new alignment of expressway of motorway standard is required.

One thing I think would be useful for this whole debate is for there to be a lot more transparency behind this, as well as some forward projection. By this I mean instead of just completing a business case based on some projections, go a step further and state what are the conditions are, such as traffic volumes, growth factors etc, that would be required for a road to be upgraded up the chain. This could help give locals and politicians more certainty as to what types of projects will happen and when. For example, rather than the NZTA just stating they’ll build a parallel 2-lane road between Whangarei and Marsden Point, and locals being disappointed by it, why not state what traffic volumes would need to be for it to be built as a 4-lane expressway or later upgraded to that standard.

Such an approach would probably useful across many other parts of the transport sector.

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99 comments

  1. Like you say, funding for road improvements is about trade-offs.

    But the previous National government has blood on it’s hands when it comes to roading enforcement. I’ve noticed the creeping return of excessive speed and reckless driving over the past several years on the open road and much of the cause of the rise in road deaths in my opinion can be squarely laid at the door of the absentee government John Key ran and a maniac Bill English with his Norquistian desire to drown the government in the bathtub in the name of a cutting taxes and returning a surplus.

    Under National funding for police road safety ( the police are funded through the Road Policing Programme (RPP), which is produced by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) working with the Police) was frozen at around 300 million for years. That meant that well over 110 officer positions for on-road safety were eliminated. Breath-testing numbers were slashed. Speed cameras were underused and not maintained or funded. like other huge swathes of the government that Bill English underfunded to the point they were forced to abdicate their regulatory authority to the private sector, NZTA abandoned enforcing vehicle inspection standards – with appalling consequences in the current scandals around vehicle safety. Road safety in general took a back seat with the near total capture by the road transport lobby of the National party, a lobby group that loved the ambient lax enforcement of costly standards.

    These issues have only been addressed in the last 18 months, with emergency funding from NZTA. So yes, we can talk about funding priorities. And we can talk about the unnecessary deaths that sit squarely at the door of the previous government.

      1. Dude, there is no question that Bill English was absolutely determined to get a surplus. And there is no question that in that quest whole sections of government were hugely underfunded to the point of ceasing to function properly or simply allowed to wither on the vine.

        Policy decisions have consequences, including a rising road toll. Bill English wanted a surplus come hell or high water, and John Key was his boss. The blame sits squarely with them for a fair chunk of the increased road toll.

          1. There would quite obviously be a lag effect – especially if they didn’t increase funding so inflation eroded it away over time.
            It is hard to say what the main cause of the problem has been. I personally think there are a number of factors including smartphones, lack of policing and speed cameras, increased road use, police focusing only on certain infringements (speeding and drinking), increased tourism, increased immigration, increased drug use, etc. I also wonder if the main reason we had such a drop in road toll prior to this increase was due to ABS and air bags. Now pretty much everyone has those so they aren’t causing the road toll to drop anymore.
            But Sanctuary is correct – the National government did play a big part and their current policies would continue to see the road toll climb.

        1. This has nothing to do with surpluses or deficits. The NLTF is ring-fenced from general taxation, you can’t just hoard fuel tax money to create a surplus.

      1. Under the Clark government spending on police went up and up, Highway Patrol was established and road safety advertising was intense. That all changed under National.

        I recall quite clearly the economy struggled into recession territory post 2008 as did the publics spending and that amongst other things, equalled less travel!

        One Queens Birthday weekend (09, 2010 or thereabouts) there was no deaths. Abysmal weather combined with the economy in a rut where people didn’t bother going away that weekend. It was never to be repeated.

        And by then the cuts to police budgets had yet to take effect.

        It is no surprise the incredible lack of emphasis and investment on road safety by National blew out eventually, ironically with the same lag effect but with the opposite effect as Labour’s increased spending in the same area years before!

  2. 108 people died on Norwegian roads in 2018, there’s just over 5.5m Norwegians. Norwegian driving conditions are arguably worse than NZ’s. The big difference is IMO driver training, Norwegians are better drivers, they drive to the conditions, they don’t drink and drive and fines for driving offences are draconian. We could learn a lot from Norway. It’s just a shame the current govt have screwed the future of NZ by stopping oil exploration. NZ with oil money would be the country we all want but at the moment have no chance of being able to afford.

    1. Leaving aside your climate insensitivity, the idea of minimising spending on road projects and doing everything else to improve safety does appeal. Better driver training, lower speeds, stronger enforcement, smaller cars, less traffic, smaller and fewer trucks, a culture change around driving, and around drink driving, more opportunity to take regional buses instead of having to drive – all this could contribute to safety.

      Increasing access other than by driving seems key, given the number of people who can’t, don’t or don’t want to drive on the open road.

      Question : How do you get past the refrain : “they’re just revenue-gathering” if you introduce draconian fines?

      1. How do you get past the refrain : “they’re just revenue-gathering” if you introduce draconian fines?

        Education, people need to understand that laws are laws and if you choose to live somewhere you need to obey them. We don’t argue that if someone assaults someone and they go to prison we are just prisoner gathering..

        Education on where the ‘revenue gathering’ goes, I have to explain to my mother in law who by 70 should already understand that taxes and rates aren’t just pocket money for councils and governments and have to let her know what that money is being spent on.

        If through police adverts on TV etc, they could show ‘through these fines we managed to carry out x,y,z successful projects whilst lowering road death tolls etc’ people might have something more tangible to understand…as our society progresses we are becoming more and more open to evidence based advertising.

        1. Yes, some civic education at school would be a good start, too. Digressing somewhat, I saw the Simon Denny art exhibition on gaming when I was in Christchurch over the summer (absolutely excellent). Civic education as a result of a collectivist reponse to the challenges of our times came up in that.

        2. One of the reasons why people call it revenue gathering is that cameras are more often than not located on the safest pieces of road (and they’re not safe because of the cameras either) rather than on more dangerous pieces of road.
          Putting a speed camera on a motorway to nab drivers doing 105km/h (when in most countries that motorway would have a speed limit of 110/120/130 etc) is just about revenue. Likewise putting it at the end of a passing lane where that passing lane is often the sole opportunity for people to pass the slow 70km/h driver (who speeds up to 100 at the passing lane) for 20+ km is just nuts (doesn’t allow people to pass where it’s safe and only encourages them to pass elsewhere where it isn’t).
          A huge amount of fatalities in NZ are from reckless motorcyclists yet speed cameras don’t work on them as they only have plates at the back. Likewise you don’t see many in areas with large numbers of logging trucks (which are dangerous enough as it is without adding on speeding).
          Where are the speed cameras late at night catching the boy racers and joyriders who you hear about the next day wrapping themselves around a power pole in a fatal crash?
          So many reasons how they could be used better and not be just a revenue gathering device that they mostly are right now.

          1. Is there more substance to your assertion other than statistically irrelevant “I got done on the safest part of SH1” anecdotes? This is the kind of self-justification trotted out on Stuff comments every day without citation.

          2. So the real issue is that there aren’t enough – if they were absolutely everywhere then they couldn’t be considered as revenue gathering.
            This is what I can’t understand – surely the revenue is enough to pay for the camera (they must be pretty cheap these days), so why aren’t they absolutely everywhere?

          3. I agree with you akldude. For example you often see a mobile camera at the bottom of a hill on a wide straight road, but never on narrow curved roads or next to a school or kids playground. The reason is the extra revenue, not safety.

            That;s why I like the new government approach of prioritising safety outcomes rather than simple speed, however our enforcement needs to catch up with this.

          4. Agreed, also the authorities don’t care about vulnerable road users so don’t bother enforcing speed limits in urban areas. Static cameras, mobile cameras and police patrols are all concentrated on 100km/h highways.

            Add to this that the enforcement system is stacked against urban areas anyway. Penalties scale based on how far over the speed limit a driver is in absolute terms, not relative terms. So someone driving 50km/h in a 30km/h zone (66% over the limit) gets the same fine / demerit points as someone driving 120km/h in a 100km/h zone (20% over the limit).

          5. I want to play devils advocate regarding speed cameras at the bottom of hills on wide straight roads. These may have positive psychological influences on driver behaviour more generally. Consider this: Anytime I leave the house in my car, I don’t know where a camera will be. Sure, I can assume they’re often at the bottom of long straight hills, but not always. They could be anywhere. What camera’s in these positions teach me is that, no matter how much the road design suggests I should be able to go faster, I must always drive to the speed limit, or risk facing a fine. Furthermore, cameras on winding roads next to schools wouldn’t generate as much revenue because fewer people speed there, the road doesn’t encourage it. Surely we want our cameras generating revenue, it takes money out of the pockets of people driving too fast and into the pockets of authorities who can re-invest it to improve our transport infrastructure.

          6. Going downhill isn’t an excuse for speeding, seems to me to be quite reasonable to put them at the bottom of a hill if people are consistently speeding.

        1. Norway is a nation with a high level of taxes on many goods, especially on imported vehicles. EVs are simply allowed to be imported without paying some of those taxes – thats how come they can “afford” EV subsidies – they simply choose to encourage behaviours that are determined to be beneficial for all Norwegians by charging less tax on EVs over Fossil Fueled ones.

          Norwegian Oil revenues are [by design] locked away from the government into a State Oil “future fund” (used to be called “StatOil” it has a different name now) – so can’t be used as slush funds by Norway for the purposes you suggest they are.

          Unlike NZ’s future fund of money from selling off Power companies – they were wholly used for slush fund purposes by the last Government.

          But it is a little bit ironic that the Norwegian Government is penalising fossil fuelled vehicles over EVs now when their own future fund got so much money from the fossil fuels industry.

          But that is a situation the Norwegians are at least acknowledging and trying to make amends for.

          1. The fund is called he Government Pension Fund Global or as it’s commonly called the Oil Fund. Statoil now Equinor is the Norwegian State Owned Oil Company, the govt owns 67% of the stock, the rest is publicly traded.

            The Norwegian Govt is allowed to withdraw up to 3% of the funds value each year. The first time this happened was in 2016.

            If NZ found oil and could manage the revenues in the same way we would be a better country for it.

            The Norwegian govt is still very happy granting exploration licenses, the issue surrounding EV’s is pure social engineering, nothing more nothing less. The govt will start to tax EV’s as soon as they can do it without suffering backlash from the electorate.

      2. I’m not really bothered about what people think about draconian fines so long as the money generated by those fines is put back into improving road safety, which leads to a safer driving environment for everyone.

        Id also rather see fewer larger trucks than more smaller ones, because lets face it you can’t replace more larger trucks with fewer smaller ones, that’s illogical.

        1. Only illogical if you keep moving the same amount of Stuff around. Once we move past a growth – obsessed economy into one that measures the things that matter, like climate environmental, social, mental and public health, we won’t have to produce and move Stuff just to balance the books.

          1. That’s never going to happen, people will always want ‘stuff’ and stuff will always need to be moved from where it’s produced to where it’s used/consumed. Also our population will continue to grow.

    2. Norway is a great example.We should absolutely follow them: Nationwide rail network. Very high taxes on fossil fuel cars. And Vision Zero.

      1. The rail network is not nationwide, it’s not even close to nationwide. It doesn’t go to the north, and there are also quite large population centres on the West Coast which have no rail services.

        Norway are spending an absolute fortune on road building, they are doing what we should be doing, turning dangerous two lane highway into divided 4 lane motorways. They also building bridges and tunnels to replace ferries and poor road alignments. Within a couple of years a 15.5km subsea tunnel and a 2km long suspension bridge will start construction a few KM’s from where I live, this will replace 4 separate fjord ferry routes, its part of the gigantic 360 billion NOK (62 billion NZD) Ferry Free E39 project. All those EV’s need safe roads to drive on to.

        This is just one example of what you can do when you’re oil rich.

          1. Yes I do the company I work for is based in a small regional town of 26,000 people. My wife’s family live in an even smaller village of 2000 people.

        1. Worth mentioning that much of Norway’s highway network is tolled, while fuel is heavily taxed as are vehicles (excluding EVs).

          Not suggesting we couldn’t also do that, just highlighting that it’s not necessarily a simple choice to build more 4 lane highways but rather a value judgement about what is an appropriate amount to charge motorists for building / maintaining roads.

          Personally i like some aspects of the Norway model: decent social support combined with unabashed user pays / pigouvian / progressive taxes for certain activities. The way they make personal tax information publicly available is also rather hilarious to anyone steeped in anglo notions of privacy. Relatively effective at reducing tax evasion i suspect!

          1. It should also be noted that the tolls are used to pay for the infrastructure, once it’s paid for the tolls are removed. A good example is the world famous Atlantic Road, it proved so popular the road was paid down in less than half the expected time period so the toll was removed.

        2. We’re never going to be oil rich, the last government’s carrot to oil explorers to convince them to explore marginal deep sea prospects was the offer of very low royalties and the explorers still ultimately left.

          I don’t see why we would want to risk a deep sea oil disaster in such an isolated country when the royalties would be so low anyway.

        1. I’m always intrigued by the fixation on what the maximum speed limit is in other countries… Most driving isn’t on the (relatively few) 110kmh motorways in Norway; it’s elsewhere on the less-protected network (same in Sweden, Germany, UK, etc, etc). Norway’s undivided rural roads have speed limits below 100kmh and their urban streets have limits below 50kmh.

          1. The answer is because it’s a simple and quick figure/statistic to state that requires a paragraph to explain why it’s wrong. It’s a really big deal this. The former is not just short, snappy and catchy (e.g. “mad, bad and dangerous to know”) which is always desirable but it’s eminently memeable, partially because it’s synecdochal (I may have made that word up).in a way that conjures up how people /want/ to think about cars and driving. Maximum Speed Limits, in short, are car ads.

            In this context it’s probably not a coincidence that the RoNS programme is essentially aimed at building roads intended to create the kind of driving conditions seen in car ads. It’s infectious.

            Oh and the best bit is… talking about how these things happen is variously nerdy, post-modern or simply ignorable (yes magicians have a vested interest in suppressing the explanations of their tricks but the relative boredom of the explanation means they don’t have to work too hard on that)… so not only do the explanations for misleading arguments not spread but nor do the explanations for how misleading arguments actually work. Hell, some of them are ridiculed… look at how people attack Trump for “alternative facts”… it’s a real disaster for the Truth that phrase was popularised by someone who was, at the time they said it, lying.

          2. Thanks for that, Whirlsler. Not only do I have a new scrabble word, I’ve had a good laugh. Bullshit is great for the compost pile, so I might start gathering synecdochal memeable anecdata, mix it with some verdant verbosity and let nature do her thing.

            Is great to realise that all those years of listening to my children explaining their magic tricks was good training.

      1. The highway speed limit is 80-90 kph, the newer motorways are 110 with some sections trailing 130.

        When I first moved to Norway the motorway network was about the same length as NZ’s, in the past 12 year they have significantly increased it and left NZ far behind..

    3. I’m not sure about Norway, but in general in Europe driving is for more affluent people with the poorer people taking PT. Richer people tend to be older, more educated, more motivated, less likely to put their life at risk, and more likely to own safe cars (generalisations of course).

      1. Most of Europe also have much younger car fleets than NZ. The government introducing measures to reduce the number of old cars would reduce the road toll.

        I just changed my 15 year old people carrier for a brand new smaller car with a wealth of safety features that weren’t even dreamt of in 2003. The biggest improvement to me is that these features are increasingly about the cars not hitting things rather than protecting the occupants when the car hits something else.

        1. safety standards improve, newer cars have to meet newer standards, your newer car will be safer for the occupants than your older car.

      2. In a lot of Norway you have to own a car otherwise you can’t get anywhere. Norway’s population hasn’t drifted to bigger urban centres like a lot of countries, its govt policy to keep the population spread out and regions viable.Which is why they are spending a fortune rebuilding roads to a much higher standard.

        1. Yet their car ownership is still 2/3 of NZ.

          Norway is also becoming more urbanised, not less:
          https://www.statista.com/statistics/455906/urbanization-in-norway/

          It is a highly urbanised country. And it has far better PT than NZ but disappointing from a Scandinavian perspective on cycling as it is not really encouraged like in Sweden or Denmark. Combined with lower speeds, I would imagine that is why their car ownership is lower than NZ, along with their traffic deaths.

          While NZ, as one of the most urbanised countries in the world, has kept its urbanisation rates quite consistent in the same period:
          https://www.statista.com/statistics/455899/urbanization-in-new-zealand/

          1. And those urban areas are spread throughout the country, they are not lumped into a few large cities but many small towns.

    4. No new oil exploration permits (in the future) equates to a higher road toll? Dear oh dear oh dear!

      We have a winner folks………..

      Anyway, ever here of climate change, Arctic melting at record speeds, no? Not at all Simon Doull?

    5. Norwegians also own 2.3 of the cars that NZers do, most probably because they have much better alternatives and driving a car is seen as a privilege, not a human right like in NZ. Those factors are likely to have had a bigger impact than driver training.

      I really don’t think NZ drivers are that bad. No worse than the UK, French, Czech, Romanian and Australian drivers I have contended with while living in those countries.

  3. Excellent post thanks, Matt. NZ can do so much better with our money on rural roads than we have been doing.

    The point about local politicians liking the big, 4-lane upgrades that NZTA fully pays for is important. Given how much extra infrastructure we’re leaving future generations to maintain (when we aren’t even maintaining what we’ve got) some sort of reality needs to be brought to the situation.

    I’ve seen suggestions that all roading projects should be co-funded by NZTA and local RCA’s as a way of limiting calls by local politicians to more reasonably affordable levels. It makes sense to me.

    1. “Given how much extra infrastructure we’re leaving future generations to maintain”

      Of course future generations can choose whether they wish to maintain it, just as this past generation decided not to maintain much of our rail system.

      I understand what you are saying though. Will future generations really need so many roads? Because of climate change they won’t be populated by fossil fueled vehicles. The Productivity Commission says that we cannot produce enough power currently to change every car to an electric one. If we could produce enough power the cost of the lines infrastructure would be immense.

      And then the more fundamental questions. Do we even want to have many routes where the primary means of transport is the private car? What part are (high speed) trains going to play in the golden triangle and other areas? Or buses on less popular routes? (Both of these types of transport are likely to have a significant impact on improving road safety).If the motorist pays the true cost of car transport will they still be prepared to pay it? Again as the Productivity Commission says, currently motorists don’t pay for all the externalities involved in driving.

      Do other countries do it better? We will spend a small amount of time in Italy this year. On one journey we will pay 55 euros in tolls from Milan to Naples. The high speed train for two is 85 euros. It’s a no brainer, we won’t be driving, although we wouldn’t have anyway.

      It seems NZ needs a more coordinated transport plan that is realistically pitched at needs we are likely to have, rather than needs we have had, or might have now.

      1. EV battery charging via home solar, pv, may be the answer if grid capacity is insufficient. One of the distinct advantages of sprawled housing in that roof mounted pv is feasible and not so in higher density multi level or tower housing

      2. taka-ite

        ProdCom said we do have sufficient electricity generation to allow for widespread EV adoption as it stands.

        What we don’t have is enough infrastructure, including transmission and local distribution lines everywhere to allow everyone to plug in their EV at peak times [like 6pm when they get home from work].

        Thats not a NZ specific problem. or an EV specific problem. Looked at the roads and motorways at peak time recently and see how clogged the roads and buses are if everyone tries to go to or from work at the same time?

        Fixing clogged peak time roads/PT is expensive and usually slow to do. [and in many cases we have better things to spend that money on as well than adding more motorways or more lanes to existing roads.

        For EVs it is an easy one that can be fixed by ensuring EV charge points are able to be load-controlled like hot water cylinders are now for most people to allow the lines companies and retailers to “shed loads” at peak times to shave the peaks. And by having time of use rates for electricity that [by clear price signals] encourage people to “fill up their EVs” overnight not the moment they arrive home and plug it in. [and almost all EVs support delayed charging/time of day charging to enable this].

        And of course, once Tiwai point Aluminium smelter closes, we will have a large surplus of plenty of electricity looking for a few thousands of homes to charge their EVs up.

        In fact Manapouri represents 1/3rd of the entire Hydro generation capability of the South Island. So thats plenty of electrons and sunk costs in the Manapouri power station, that will become available to NZ Inc to make use of.

        And of course, in the not too distant future, local energy storage – either in your EV or via residential storage will allow the electricity system to function far more efficiently, with less infrastructure than we can cream of today.

        Prod-Com foresaw that too.

        in a nutshell, Its not a problem, today, tomorrow nor likely to be in 2050.

        1. Tiwai Point just reopened its 4th pot line, increasing production capacity by 10% and took on another 50 staff, it’s not going anywhere in the near future.

  4. At least the government is doing something regarding safety. Adding safety improvements to roughly 1000 km of state highway is going to make a massive difference than new motorways on just 50 km of highway, and leaving the upgrade of the former sections to local councils.

    It just goes to show the National party care more about moving freight and giving handshakes to the trucking industry lobbyists rather than they do about moving people and without consequence.

  5. Putting a parallel road in and retaining the existing road in its unsafe state is a terrible practice. Induced traffic takes longer in rural areas, but will eventually refill the existing road. Such a project is essentially a road capacity project, with safety as a means of acquiring funding. I hope locals can see they’d eventually be left with a high crash rate again, and meantime will be paying higher taxes to fund similar projects elsewhere as well.

    The new approach of small scale targeted safety projects is far better.

  6. Wait what? 4-lane highways are safer for whom? Its dangerous enough trying to cross a 2-lane highway. Its also a lot less hospitable for cyclists as motorists believe their entitled to both lanes. The only people its safer for is impatient motorists whom can’t wait for the next safe passing location or passing lanes – not really the behavior we want to promote. 2-lane with safety improvements like medians, speed limit reductions, visibility improvements and shoulder space for active modes sounds a lot safer and more attractive to me.

    1. Certainly the impact on other users is poor.

      In addition to the reduction in safety for cyclists on the road in question and pedestrians trying to cross it, the induced traffic in nearby roads reduces safety there too.

      All of this results in severance, with a loss of access and opportunity, and a reduction in the sort of local activity that supports a sustainable economy.

      Far better to put the money into median barriers, etc, and also cycling and pedestrian amenity to enable people to safely live and conduct business near these roads.

  7. Matt for our two cities with reasonable public transport – Auckland and Wellington – has there ever been a graph of accidents per trip per capita compared between road users and public transport users?

    I was just noting your media commentary today on public transport use per capita across our main cities.

    I’m sure the comparison doesn’t work for this Whangarei example, but I suspect that a mode neutral evaluation of roading and public transport modes on safety grounds would allow for greater funding to go to public transport than for roading.

  8. Ad
    What we do have is examples like London. When they introduced the congestion tax there was a huge reduction in the amount of traffic and a significant reduction in the number of accidents. Largely the same number of people seem to have been travelling around the city of London, but just by safer means.

  9. A classic example of funding being used on motorway / expressway funding vs improvements on neighbouring routes is the SH1 / route 27 pair.
    Due to the slow and messy routing of SH1 through Huntly /Hamilton/Cambridge the easiest route south from Auckland to Tirau and beyond has been for many years via route 27 with Matamata being the only real town on the route. With the exception of SH2 (avoided by using the Onehinewai – Tahuna Rd) this route has had very little to no improvements and no passing lanes at all. At the same time SH1 has had continual funding to build the yet to be finished 4 lane route to south of Cambridge. Once this is completed it may well become the preferred route south but for the last 20 to 30 years the underfunded route 27 has been the route of preference.

    1. At present, if I were to travel from Auckland to Taupo, Rotorua or even Tauranga I’d be taking SH 27 too. However I’ve noticed how bad shape it is with the high number of dairy trucks using it. And for a mostly straight piece of road, it is actual very scary to use.

      SH 1B is the other option but still slower and equally risky. In fact that will cease to be a state highway next year.

      The Waikato Expressway will make SH 1 the faster route to all three cities but still shouldn’t discount the much needed improvements on SH 27.

      1. Sounds like these roads should be studied as a case in point:

        Have the improvements been well chosen if truck traffic is taking the poorer route? Should trucks be required to travel on the improved road?

        Is the initial number of cars that are modelled to transfer to an improved route correct, or do people still take the poorer route because they can keep moving on it, which feels like progress? (and that’s without the subsequent induced traffic effects that NZTA fails to model.)

        If the safety benefits of the improvement are real, is the fact that people are choosing an unimproved road instead a sign that NZTA aren’t doing enough to educate drivers about those safety benefits?

        1. I usually agree with you on most things Heidi, but I don’t think the farms and dairy factories that dairy trucks need to get to are really that handy to the new highway (plus we’re talking about a motorway that’s not actually finished yet).

          1. If these trucks are all serving the local area, then you’re absolutely right. And both they, and the local residents, deserve safer roads that minimize danger from the trucks.

            I was guessing – probably incorrectly – that truck drivers were also taking the route as the easier route like Don and Alex mentioned car drivers do.

        2. In fairness the major improvements from the Waikato Expressway in terms of speed have yet to be opened. Once it is a 110kmh expressway with the Huntly and Hamilton sections completed i would expect a lot of traffic to switch over from using SH27.

      2. Indeed Don and Alex, SH27 is a classic case of what happens when the obsession is with building high-spec four-lane roads at the expense of all else.

        In fact, SH2 has not had the investment it needs – roughly 2/3 of it is still a killer road, unsafe even at the 90 km/h limit. And SH27 has seen minimal upgrading – work such as bypassing the Kaihere Hills would be cheap (certainly compared to a four-lane road) and save maintenance money on a hill road plagued by slips.

        None of this has happened because of the previous government’s obsession with gold-plating SH1 at extraordinarily high cost per km and locking us into high maintenance costs for decades to come.
        In the meantime, and even after the new SH1 opens, people continue to die and be injured on SH2/SH27/SH25 etc. It’s horrible, and so easily avoided.
        May the new government’s common-sense approach to safety continue for many years.

      3. SH 2/27 sure is a rough road, travelled on many times between Auckland & Tirau when lived on SH5 for a few years. Sure has a lack of places to stop for fuel or toilets too with exception of a few new places now there. The lack of facility sure is showing on the Google reviews of the “Pink Pig Cafe” & the the toilet police owners. So many 1 star reviews there lately. Best place is the toilet by the Maramarua Service Station. There’s a couple of stretches where if you are not focussed you wonder “where am I?”

    2. The amount of traffic on SH 27 has increased considerably too. I remember being able to drive a fair chunk of that road without seeing anyone 20 years ago. Now its basically a continuous stream of traffic most of the time.

      1. Largely due to google sending people that way along with the growth in Tauranga.

        Back to the original issue of the death toll, while it is easy to blame the last government (not that this ‘”impartial” blog would do that) I think the cause of the increase is more due to the combination of large increases in traffic on most roads and distractions with smart phones the norm and data being cheap.
        I am still amazed by the number of deaths due to no seat belts. Yet when was the last time there was an add campaign focused on it.

        1. 30% of death and injuries are also alcohol related yet we still allow people to have a couple of drinks and drive.

      2. I have noticed the increase of SH27 traffic over the last few years to the point that although I still use the same general route I have modified slightly the roads I use. My alteration is no quicker, or significantly slower overall, but has far less traffic and therefore easier and safer.
        I won’t let on what the change is as I don’t want it cluttered up. 🙂

    3. I know people (older relatives) that refuse to use the Waikato expressway, preferring the Matamata or Gordonton route because it’s the route they’re most familiar with. Despite being less safe, slower, and under-maintained roads.

      Meanwhile I set the cruise control and relax from Taupiri to Hamilton, grab a bite in Frankton, roll past Cambridge at 119.99 kph, then to Taupo via the dodgy Tokoroa route.

      Where will I stop for food when the Hamilton bypass is completed?!?

      1. I would assume you’d just get off one of the exits and go find somewhere that’s open.

        There might be provision for a roadside services area in the future, like the one in Bombay.

  10. whatever happens with improvements to this stretch of highway, how about a parallel seperate cycleway for active mode use. I dont know why they arent standard on all new roads, like the kapiti expressway.

    1. The expressway cycle markings are a joke and I’ve never seen anyone riding there. I agree a separate high quality cycleways should be included.

      Although I went to Sydney recently and they have the same markings on some motorways, 6 lanes plus cycle paint!!! Absolutely mad.

  11. Two comments. Where ever there is a yellow line, put in a solid barrier.
    And NZTA needs to be investigated for their wildly inflated costings. Ministry of Works, anyone?

    1. What would a reconstituted Ministry of Works do differently? Was the MoW of old really that much more accurate in its costings, or are your memories a bit rose-tinted?

  12. I feel we need to reduce the open highway speed to 80kph for roads that do not have a median seperation as they do in Australia. They also enforce the speed limit, no leeway. They have strict enforcement of school zone speeds and I think the overall Australian driver is more considerate than the drivers we have in NZ. So to round it off speed reductions are what is needed not raised speeds and more deaths.

    1. there is definately an attitude in NZ, there was an article on stuff recently about how car dependant everyone is and the comments generally suggested people think this is a badge of honour.

    2. The argument against lowering speed limits “because most accidents happen below the speed limit” is actually an argument for lowering speed limits.
      It is absolutely absurd that a narrow winding gravel road within Auckland City Limits is posted at Open Road ie 100k speed limit. This absurd situation is because Open Road is the default and therefore cheap to provide speed signage, freed from the requirements of prescribed distance between speed signs for any other speed limits. It is time for the Government to step up with a law change to remove this deadly anomaly in speed regulation.

      1. Yes, and I’m guessing that it would be cheap enough to reduce the default speed limit to 80kph, and then only leave 100kph signs up where it really is safe to drive at the faster speed (ie separated lanes).

  13. NZTA actually do have a very detailed criteria for when a road might be four lanes, or 2+1 etc in their passing and overtaking policy document. It’s based on traffic volumes and the road gradient and specifies how regular and how long passing lanes should be and when the transition to 2+1 lanes or four lanes should happen. Whether they still abide by this policy, I have no idea, but it’s been on their website for years:

    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/appendix-3e-passing-overtaking-policy/docs/passing-overtaking-appendix-3e.pdf

    1. Thanks, Tommo. I’d searched for such a document and hadn’t found it. I note that the input variables don’t include:
      – the number of cyclists
      – the number of pedestrians needing to cross
      – the number of driveways / access points / businesses along the stretch
      It’s all about the vehicles, not about the people in the area and what they do.

      Anyone have any reasoning for why this document shouldn’t be overhauled to be multi-modal and about place as much as about movement?

      1. I think it’s implicitly (or perhaps explicitly, I can’t remember) about rural roads. But definitely should be multi-modal. If 25,000 cars means you need four lanes, why could that not also be criteria for needing a train? Some out-of-the-box thinking is required at the agency.

        1. I was imagining it was rural too… in horticultural and viticultural areas especially, there can be plenty of access points, plus tourist amenities and where cycle or bridle paths cross roads, etc… Yes, I’m looking forward to sweeping changes at NZTA as they clean away all this vehicles-only thinking.

          1. Thanks, Mike! But it’s a tack-on, isn’t it? It allows the existence of cyclists and pedestrians to influence some extra infra “taking into account funding priorities” but it doesn’t allow them to influence the choice of overall road design.

            Let alone allowing consideration for how the road design will then change behaviour – they don’t model the induced traffic, the severance and its outcomes – lower cyclist and pedestrian numbers, lower physical activity, more car dependency and lower local economic activity as people drive further to do their business.

            One document that chooses road design based on all modes and on place/movement balance is what’s required.

  14. Chapters 2 Integrated planning https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/planning-policy-manual/docs/planning-policy-manual-chapter-2.pdf, and 3 Delivering the Integrated Planning Policy through
    planning and design of the transport network https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/planning-policy-manual/docs/planning-policy-manual-chapter-3.pdf seem to give some context – haven’t read them, though!

    It’s an old (2007) document, but the NZTA website seems to treat it as still being current.

  15. The government should simply amend the GPS & set the FAR for all other types of transport improvements (including Auckland’s light rail) to 0% for the next 5 years and direct NZTA and road authorities (FAR=90%) to only undertake safety works.

    That should provide sufficient funding to:
    a) put wire ropes down the vast majority of the most dangerous parts of the rural network
    b) add guard railing where needed on the roadsides
    c) close dangerous rural junctions and provide alternative U-turn facilities
    e) install RIAWS / speed humps on side and main road approaches of remaining rural junctions
    d) provide some 2+1 in high volume locations
    e) install RIAWS / speed humps on side and main road approaches to
    f) drop the speed limit to 70/80/90 kmh where safety improvements haven’t been undertaken
    g) require RCA to adopt approach based signal phasing / protected movements where there are significant intersection safety issues at signalized junctions
    h) set the alcohol/drug limit to zero for driving
    i) make the risk drivers (disqualified/repeat drunk drivers) go out with the emergency services /hospitals to see the carnage they cause. If they don’t shape up then send them to jail

  16. Returning to the point raised earlier about speed management, road speeds are posted so there should be very little reason to break them. That said we all creep over the maximum now and then, so rather than fixed cameras which give no allowance and provide minimal deterrent, perhaps there should be a wholesale move to average speed cameras? These could be installed to cover stretches of road which meet a set criteria, such as fatalities, number of accidents & propensity for motorists to speed etc etc. The criteria should have a wider focus than just cars and car driver behaviour and must take into account the location, the environment and other road users (including pedestrians and cyclists) as these all affect and are affected by excessive speed and dangerous driving. The adoption of such a system, with clear signage etc (all cameras in the UK have to be visible) could help to side step the ongoing arguments about ‘revenue raising’, whilst helping to reduce speeding by ensuring that drivers are advised of the posted speed and are then held accountable for the speed of their vehicle.

  17. Yes, I wonder how safe roads are during the construction phase and whether that’s taken into account. The last few times I traveled along SH1 between Meremere and Rangiriri there always was an accident there or at least the remains of crashed cars.

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