Friday Flash, September 2, 2022
by Mark Hooper, Federated Farmers Taranaki Provincial President
Last week, our mayor here in New Plymouth told media that Waka Kotahi has siphoned off half a billion dollars from Taranaki over the past decade while the region’s state highways are falling apart.
Documents released to Neil Holdom show in ten years, the region has contributed about $550 million to the roading agency’s coffers which was spent elsewhere – primarily in the main centres. Waka Kotahi says that is too simplistic of a view. Sure, there is some merit in the argument that regional road funding shouldn’t be limited to only what is generated in the region but our mayor is right: our highways are simply not up to scratch.
It has been a nightmare for drivers following the big rain events of the past week or so. A friend told me they counted 15 parked up damaged cars between Stratford and New Plymouth one day last week. Another colleague from Hawera went to Stratford Monday evening before sunset, so she could remember where all the big potholes were on both sides on the road and proceeded to drive ‘slalom style’ avoiding holes on the way there and back. A not-so-lucky driver wrote off a very expensive mag wheel on her new ute (purchased the night before) which is having to be re-ordered into NZ. Apparently it was an interesting call to her insurance company!
NZTA has historically been a very interesting beast, and still is. The organisation itself has had many restructures and is a very disjointed agency. Informal chats with contacts in the roading industry reveal their frustrations with the system and makes for some interesting comments about them!
NZTA have developed the ‘road to zero’ strategy which is being used as the foundation document for all decisions it makes. The strategy is highly flawed and is based on biased data, i.e. Megamaps. It’s a strategy based on an overseas model (from Sweden I think – and their roads are much better engineered than ours) which has not yet been achieved.
Their primary objective under ‘road to zero’ is the pipe dream of a zero death-toll on our roads. However this seems to be at expense of all else related to roads. This strategy is really ‘screwing over regional NZ’ as funding is redirected to the large highly engineered highways. The message is plain to see – if you don’t live in Auckland or another major city – NZTA doesn’t care about your roads.
The secondary objective to the ‘road to zero’ strategy is the speed reductions on roads that are not as highly engineered. NZTA have tasked local authorities to be the ‘bearers of bad news’ in relation to speed limits. You might want to quiz your candidates in the upcoming local body elections on this point and other road related issues, see pg10 of our 2022 Local Elections Platform. Soon we will also see the establishment of ‘regional transport committees’ who will further be pushing the “road to zero” strategy.
In rural areas we’ve already seen poor local road maintenance lead to some roads return to being effectively unsealed roads and lower speed limits being applied rather than spend the money to bring them up to scratch. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the same now applying to poorly maintained highways as well. From the headlines, it appears this is already happening in many of our regions!