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The Safe Network Programme will make 870km of high-volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements such as median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening, according to Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.
The ministers announced the spending today at Dome Valley, a treacherous section of SH1 between Warkworth and Wellsford, where 36 people have died and 102 suffered serious injuries between 2000 and October 2018.
New Zealand's high road toll has been under scrutiny, as the number of fatal and serious injuries has escalated.
The programme will target an estimated $600m to $700m of state highway safety improvements and $700m to $800m of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.
Among the projects already under way are new safety barriers and line marking between Taupiri and Gordonton in the Waikato, similar work between Cambridge and Piarere, improvements between SH1 and Shannon in the lower North Island and a dangerous section of road on the outskirts of Christchurch between Marshlands and Burwood.
Work is due to start this summer on 39km of SH1 through Dome Valley. Other projects that will shortly get under way include a stretch of SH16 between Brigham Creek and Waimauku in Auckland, between Hamilton and Whatawhata, the Hawkes Bay expressway and between Waitara and Bell Block in Taranaki.
Twyford said the programme would quickly build urgent safety improvements to save lives.
"Drivers will inevitably make mistakes and it's the Government's job is to stop those mistakes turning into tragedies.
"This year, far too many New Zealanders have lost their lives or been seriously injured in crashes that could have been prevented by road safety upgrades," he said.
Genter said: "Our Government believes it is unacceptable for anyone to be killed or seriously injured on our roads."
"Annual road deaths in New Zealand increased from 253 just a few years ago in 2013, to 378 last year. The number of serious injuries increased from 2020 to 2836 per year over the same period.
She said no other industry accepts hundreds of people dying each year as normal.
"No person I know thinks losing a loved one in a crash is an acceptable price to pay for living in a modern society – that's why we're making safety a priority.
"Local councils will be offered a higher level of central government funding to fix high-risk, local and regional roads. Over half of all fatal crashes happen on local roads and we recognise central government funding will help make these roads safer sooner," Genter said.
A programme of local road safety projects is already under development with the first projects expected to begin next year.
The NZ Transport Agency will speed up the time it takes to deliver safety projects by fast-tracking the approval process for standard, proven safety improvements.
Applying the new fast-track process on projects like the SH1 Dome Valley upgrade would have shaved nine months off the project timeframe.
"Regions with the highest rates of deaths and serious injuries - Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury - will be prioritised in the first year of the programme. It will then be rolled out to other regions including the Bay of Plenty," Genter said.
The programme will include a nationwide advertising campaign to help raise awareness and conversation about why we must change some of our riskiest roads to prevent more road trauma, the minister said.