The appalling state of our roads is now so bad it’s making the news, with lines of cars parked up due to blow outs after falling into monstrous potholes. The National Party took the opportunity to launch the Pothole of the Week competition. And I applaud them for highlighting this unacceptable issue.
Whatever system is in place for maintaining our roads, it is failing. We have a Government that is all about wellbeing and saving lives, yet it is allowing a situation to manifest on our roads that is simply dangerous. It’s completely contrary to the Road to Zero philosophy, making it even more farcical, as this disregard for road maintenance is creating an even greater risk for drivers.
I’ve seen trucks on the side of SH1 with contractors filling holes with shovels of asphalt, no traffic controls in place, as cars speed past at 100km/h; this is how bad it has become. And as the cars roll over these patch-up jobs, stones and other projectiles spray all over the place.
I’ve spoken with an insurance company recently, and over the past four years, they have experienced a 56 per cent increase in windscreen claims. And that’s just one provider. My Amarok is on its third windscreen in 50,000km from stone damage. The cost to motorists in screens, tyres, wheels and suspension must be in the millions. Motorists’ money is being wasted. Out of the 800 odd claims to NZTA for damage caused by roading issues to July this year, only five had been paid out. Yes, there is a complaints process for road-related damage, and I encourage people who have suffered a financial loss to take the time to make a claim and let them know it’s not okay.
Much of this has to do with Waka Kotahi’s failure as an agency to provide a duty of care, a safe environment for motorists out on the roads. At what point does it become a health and safety issue? Companies get slammed by WorkSafe when they don’t ensure a workplace is safe, yet why isn’t the Government being held to account for allowing the roads to become such a hazardous environment for drivers?
NZTA’s response to the deteriorating condition of roads is to continue to lower speed limits. It’s all part of their strategy – let the roads fall into disrepair and then introduce ‘safer speeds’ to counter the crumbling tarmac. I’ve spoken to some councils and mayors recently who are starting to work together and push back. They’ve been told by the NZTA that ‘people should just slow down and avoid the potholes’. That’s honestly the response. We are going down a wormhole here thanks to the lack of experienced individuals in decision-making areas within these agencies.
What disappoints me most is that the minister stands up and references the lack of investment by the National Party as the root cause. When is someone going to stand up and take responsibility for this serious issue and fix it? I’m not saying that National was perfect during its time, but when is someone from the Government going to stand up and admit that what they are doing is not working. Because if we look at the road toll stats, they are still going in the wrong direction.