Road to Zero road safety plan needs strong government investment to work - AA

6:33 pm on 17 July 2019

The government needs to commit to spending serious money if it wants its plan to radically cut the road toll to work, the Automobile Association says.

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Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The government has proposed [ a new road safety strategy] which aims to cut road deaths by 40 percent in the next decade.

It includes measures such as lowering speed limits, increasing spending on road safety infrastructure, and making sure safer vehicles enter New Zealand's fleet.

Read everything you need to know about the Road to Zero strategyhere.

The association's motoring affairs manager Mike Noon said it was a very ambitious plan.

He said while he was happy the government had put a stake in the ground, it was going to take a huge effort to actually pull off.

"The government, if they want this to work, [needs] to strongly invest in road safety right through the life of this strategy," he said.

The Automobile Association's Mike Noon

Mike Noon Photo: RNZ/Philippa Tolley

"There's a lot of roads that need to have safety work done on them, there's a lot of work to do and it's not going to be cheap."

Mr Noon said he welcomed the emphasis on having a safer vehicle fleet, and the move away from the "covert" use of speed cameras. There also needed to be careful thought given to dropping speed limits as it could hurt New Zealand's rural economy.

The new strategy seeks to improve upon existing roads, rather than build new ones.

The government is aiming to install median and side barriers, add rumble strips and make other safety upgrades to more than 1500km of road over the next three years, at a cost of $1.4 billion.

Mr Noon said while he welcomed the safety infrastructure investment, new highways still needed to keep being built because they were so safe to drive on.

Taupō mayor backs scheme, calls for more roads

The move away from road-building also concerned Taupō district mayor David Trewavas.

He said his area was a major transport hub, and the government needed to keep laying new bitumen.

"Connectivity is so important to us, we go north, south, east, west. [There's] not too many other regions in New Zealand where you have that meeting point right in the middle ... our carriageways are very very busy."

He said there were extremely narrow roads in his district - one where two trucks could not pass each other going the opposite way without one needing to pull over.

To fix those sorts of issues, new roads needed to keep being built, he said.

Caroline Perry is the director of Breaks NZ, a road safety charity that also provides support to families whose loved ones have been hurt or killed on this country's roads.

She said she needed more time to fully digest the plan and while she welcomed it the government needed to make sure it delivered concrete results.

"We know that the strategy is the first step in this, and but we also need ... action plans in place, and to develop measures over time to achieve the targets that we want."

The Taupō district has had a horror year for deaths on its roads - with 18 fatalities in just three accidents.

Mr Trewavas said whatever happened something needed to be done.

"If there's any way possible that we can get this road toll down we would support it ... having 18 fatalities - 18 body bags as it were, lined up ... the grief of the families involved, the grief of the first responders.

"If this is a road to that direction, of saving those lives, we certainly fully support it."

The strategy was put out for consultation today and closes on 14 August.