$20 million to make rural highways safer

The upgrades to rural highways are part of the Government’s $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme....
The upgrades to rural highways are part of the Government’s $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme. Photo: Getty Images
Rumble strips, safety barriers and wider shoulders will be installed as part of a road safety package to improve rural highways on the West Coast and in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu-Whanganui.

Julie Anne Genter. Photo: supplied
Julie Anne Genter. Photo: supplied

The next stage in the Safety Boost Programme - $20 million to upgrade 670km across 11 rural state highways - was announced today by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“The Boost Programme includes simple safety upgrades that can be installed quickly over the summer period, such as rumble strips, roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening, and improved signage,” Genter said.

The targeted highways did not have the highest levels of traffic, but were full of risky sections such as sharp corners and narrow stretches, she said.

Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42%, while shoulder widening at high risk sites can reduce serious crashes by up to 35%.

“All drivers make mistakes from time to time. Safety improvements like these stop simple mistakes turning into tragedies,” Genter said.

Upgrades on the West Coast:

* SH6 and SH67 between Westport and Murchison

* SH7 from Hanmer Springs

Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay:

* SH2 from Wairoa to Gisborne

* SH35 from Gisborne to Tolaga Bay

* SH2 from Gisborne to Matawai

* SH5 and SH2 to Te Haroto

Manawatu-Wanganui:

* SH56 from Makerua to Palmerston North

* SH57 from SH3 to SH56

* SH3 from Palmerston North to Ashhurst

* SH4 from Whanganui to Raetihi

* SH54 from SH3 to Feilding

Work on the upgrades will start on Monday and aim to be finished by July.

Genter said these improvements would be additional to the 870km of upgrades in the Government’s $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme for high-volume state highways, which hopes to save 160 lives and serious injuries by 2021.

Safety Boost has already made upgrades - including almost 2000km of rumble strips, 30km of road safety barriers, and lower speed zones for high-risk intersections - to roads in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Wanganui, Otago and Southland.

The road toll was 379 in 2018, the highest since 2009 and much higher than in 2013, when it was 253.

In April last year, Genter said the Government would look at adopting a target of zero deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads. The target would be “audacious”, but all road deaths and serious injuries were avoidable.

The Government has not formally adopted a zero target, and it will be part of a consultation process on road safety that will take place in March and April.

Genter, who has said it would take decades to see a substantial reduction in road deaths and serious injuries, has verbally clashed with the National Party over the best way to improve road safety.

In the last election, National promised eight roading projects - including Mill Rd in South Auckland, Auckland’s east-west link, and a Napier-Hastings four-lane expressway - saying they are crucial to save lives and improve regional economic development.

The party has been pushing for the projects ever since, including delivering eight petitions - signed by more than 16,000 people supporting the highway projects - to the transport and infrastructure select committee.

This summer the party has put up hoardings to coincide with busy holiday traffic on stretches of highway between Wellsford and Te Hana (Northland), Otaki and Levin, in Te Puna (Bay of Plenty), and in parts of Canterbury.

The series of hoardings near Wellsford has three messages: “We know this traffic is a real pain”; “National was building a 4-lane highway here”; “but Labour cancelled it”.

The Government has called the hoardings “cynical politics” that show support for “a handful of gold-plated expressways”.

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