I regularly drive between Taupo and Tokoroa where a section of State Highway One has been a disaster area for the better part of a year.
The road has gone through a realignment process and safety barriers have been installed which, in my opinion, have actually increased the risk of a crash.
This piece of SH1 was down to one lane with a set of traffic management lights controlling the chaos for months.
Before the section of highway fully reopened it was already having significant repairs carried out as the road surface was failing terribly and now they are having to repair the repairs.
As of the middle of October a long section of the road is back down to a single lane again.
The central wire safety barrier has been completely removed and the stretch of road is undergoing “major” works again. The grief this has caused motorists over the past 12 months is unacceptable and who’s to say the ‘repairs to the repairs’ will do the job?
There are too many places around New Zealand where this has happened. And no matter where you go around the country, there are tens of thousands of orange traffic cones everywhere.
If the overkill of those lining the road works weren’t enough, what about the ones discarded in drains, paddocks, bushes or run over and destroyed and left by the roadside.
It’s all such a waste of money. Oh to be in the traffic management business these days!
It got me thinking, and so I made an official information request from Waka Kotahi to see just how much money we as a country have been spending on our roads to get this level of service.
The sums are incredible. Over the previous two financial years (2021 – 2023) we have spent more than $2.3 billion on roading and construction, and a further $614 million on consultants’ fees.
And at the agency level, there are 1159 people earning over $100,000 at Waka Kotahi, while the CEO is on $750k.
To deliver a nation of potholes and smashed up road cones.
There doesn’t seem to me to be any accountability for these failures and the wasted money. There’s no quality control on road works, and no one cares about the stones and the other debris left behind that’s causing so much damage to our vehicles.
There’s a lot being spent and many people, particularly the consultants, are getting rich riding this gravy train. And yet we need more money for the many projects that need funding.
While we are repairing the repairs, we can’t crack on with actually improving the network.
We seem to be just holding it together rather than making any real progress.
They can blame the weather for some of this debacle but when the system faces a big event, it exposes its weaknesses. It also highlights the vital importance of, and our utter reliance on, these networks to get about and get vital supplies to our communities.
This is why we should be getting a better result for all the money we have been spending.
I also recently drove SH2 to Gisborne and, to be fair, there have been a few major slips that have been repaired well. It’s a real achievement to have the road back open.
It proves we can actually do the job. We have the competencies to rectify massive issues but we fail on the small ones.
They take so long with months of traffic disruption and the outcome is often poor. It’s the constant hold ups that lead to frustrations, and lost time for everyone. Why can’t we get it done right the first time?
That’s the pressure the new Government will face; proving it can manage things better, stem the flow of money and deliver the results.
The wastage is obvious, so let’s hope they stand by their promises to get us back on track.
This article first appeared in the November 2023 issue of NZ Autocar magazine.