After Covid – back to near ‘normal’ or radical change?

Will how the country comes out of this crisis shape the economy and society in New Zealand for decades to come? A bit for sure, but how much?

One thing is for sure, the old ‘normal’ is no longer, after Covid-19 has subsided (presuming and hoping that it does fade away in the next year or two) the world will be significantly different.

One local government councillor in Wellington has suggested radical changes to traffic and streets – RNZ:

A Wellington regional councillor says now is the chance to think about how to restart the economy without also ramping up emissions, as the latest data shows air pollution fell dramatically during the first week of lockdown.

Air pollution from traffic emissions in the central city dropped 72 percent, and by 63 percent in Upper Hutt.

Greater Wellington’s climate committee chair Thomas Nash says how the country comes out of this crisis could shape the economy and society in New Zealand for decades to come.

I haven’t been appreciating any change to streets because I haven’t been out in any streets for three weeks. But some people have been going for walks and bike rides and have been enjoying the lack of cars.

But how can cities make streets “permanently safer and more pleasant”. By banning are severely restricting car use?

In the short term that would not be a good idea. For most people the alternative is public transport, and that must be a lot riskier with the virus around than safely commuting in our automobubbles.

And there’s the cost factors – councils are being asked to limit rates rises because people and businesses are facing income cuts. It may not be good timing spending big money on mass transit system. Projects in some places may be worth looking at, but I don’t see how mass transit can work in modern Dunedin, and many suburbs are too hilly to encourage a sudden shift to cycling.

And if councils want to look at resilience from viruses in the future then mass transit may not be the answer.

Most councils take so long to decide on doing things there is unlikely to be a sudden rush to radical change. That may be a good thing, especially if there’s a few idealist councillors around like Thomas Nash.

And Wellington has had major problems with their bus system as it is, and that was before the pressure of Covid. Rushing in to radical change would be a huge risk.


UPDATE:  Govt to fund temporary cycleways and footpaths post COVID-19 lockdown

The Government will provide extra funding to help councils expand footpaths and roll out temporary cycleways to help people keep 2 metres of physical distance after the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter announced today.

“When people begin to return to city centres following the lockdown we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“Some of our footpaths in busy areas are quite narrow. Temporary footpath extensions mean people can give each other a bit more space without stepping out onto the road.”

Funding will come from the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund, part of a wider programme that supports projects using ‘tactical urbanism’ techniques such as pilots and pop-up, interim treatments that make it safer and easier for people walking and cycling in the city.

“Footpath extensions would use basic materials like planter boxes and colourful paint to carve out a bit more space in the street for people walking, like we’ve seen on High street and Federal street in Auckland,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“A number of cities around the world, including New YorkBerlin and Vancouver, have rolled out temporary bike lanes to provide alternatives to public transport, which people may be less inclined to use in the short term.

“Councils are able to use highly-visible plastic posts, planter boxes and other materials to create temporary separated bike lanes where people feel safe.

“It’s now up to councils to put forward projects if they want to take advantage of this initiative. The NZ Transport Agency will help councils implement street changes that meet the Innovating Streets pilot fund criteria safely and with minimal disruption. While planning can start during lockdown the rollout of temporary changes will not happen while we remain at Alert Level 4.

“Councils can apply now for funding from the NZ Transport Agency, who will cover 90 percent of the cost of rolling out temporary changes to the streetscape,” Julie Anne Genter said.

How long will these ‘temporary’ changes be in place? “The rollout of temporary changes will not happen while we remain at Alert Level 4” – so it will be rolled out as people start to use their cars more.

Two scoots forward, one scoot backward

The use of relatively environmentally friendly electric scooters has surged in the last couple of years, mainly due to scooters for hire in many cities. Lime scooters arrived in Dunedin over a year ago, and it’s common to see them scattered over the city parked and lying on footpaths, and while not prolific on roads they must be being used.

They have not been without problems, in particular injuries of riders who crash. There has also been concerns about the use of scooters on footpaths, posing inconvenience and dangers to pedestrians.

The Government is now trying to address this by looking at restrictions on scooters, in particular limiting their speed to 15 km/h. This may make sense when scooting on footpaths, but it would seem a backward step in cycle lanes where bikes go much faster.

Beehive: Bid for safer footpaths

The Government is looking at ways to make footpaths more pedestrian friendly as new forms of transport such as e-scooters change the way people get around.

It’s looking at:

  • Clarifying that pedestrians and people in wheelchairs have right of way on the footpath
  • Putting in a speed limit of 15km/h (about running speed) and a width limit of 75cm for transport devices used on the footpath
  • Allowing e-scooters and other transport devices to use cycle lanes

“This package looks at how we can make our streets safer for those going from A to B, particularly young children when they are learning to ride bikes, and ensuring our road rules reflect real life,” Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“How we travel around our streets and footpaths is changing as more Kiwis choose to walk, cycle, and use new forms of mobility like e-scooters.

“New transport technologies like e-scooters are convenient, fun and help ease congestion, but we need to a balanced approach to ensure pedestrians retain priority on our footpaths.

Safety of pedestrians is important – but I don’t know whether there have been increased injuries of pedestrians due to the use of scooters.

And, limiting the speed of scooters on footpaths to 15 km/h may make some sense, it doesn’t make sense to also limit their speed to jogging pace on cycle lanes.

Other minor changes in the package to simplify and clarify road rules include:

  • Categorising vehicles to reflect changes in technology
  • Improving the safety of people walking, cycling and using micro-mobility devices by clarifying a number of give way rules
  • Giving  buses priority when exiting bus stops on roads with a speed limit of 60km/h or less
  • Clarifying the powers of road controlling authorities in relation to parking on berms.

Yesterday National announced a policy that would try to reduce regulations.

The consultation will be open from 9 March to 22 April 2020.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe on the road and close passes at speed are not only scary, they can be fatal,” Julie Anne Genter said.

Are they fatal? Have any pedestrians been killed by scooters? Or, Genter refers to roads, does she mean the speed of cars versus already slower scooters?

Safety is obviously an important consideration, of pedestrians, scooter riders and people in vehicles. Encouraging people to walk, scoot or pedal is a big thing these days.

But more pedestrians, scooters and bikes could cause congestion and safety problems.

And if they over-regulate it may deter people from using scooters.

I have looked into the practicality and economics of getting a scooter for commuting. Limiting speeds to 15 km/h would rule that option out for me.

‘Accessible Streets’ rules package consultation document www.nzta.govt.nz/accessible-streets-consultation

Safer Speeds = lower speed limits

If road speeds were limited to 0 there would be no accidents. With speed limits up 100 kph there are quite a few accidents and deaths and injuries. If road speeds were decreased there would likely be fewer accidents and deaths. So how low should they go?

RNZ:  Speed limits reduction proposal wins local support, National Party criticisms

Local leaders are backing reduced speed limits, and Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is rejecting the National Party’s claims that reduced speed limits would put brakes on the economy.

It follows the revelation from a New Zealand Transport Agency tool, Mega Maps, that the speed limit on 87 percent of roads is higher than what is deemed the safe travel speed.

It suggested the speed should be as low as 60km/h on some open roads, and 30km/h or 40km/h in cities.

Cities across the country have already reduced or are looking to reduce speed limits.

According to the National Road Carriers Association, 95 percent of export fruit, 86 percent of export wool and 85 percent of export dairy products are carried by our trucks on the roads.

National’s transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said the economy relied on the movement of freight so any slowing of speeds could cost the country.

“Having a strong productive economy enables us to invest in many other areas which helps improve the quality of life and wellbeing of New Zealand so before you make dramatic changes to speed limits right across the board you have to think these things very carefully through.”

The government has given no indication whether it will reduce all speed limits, and it has rejected claims a slower network will make it less efficient.

“We don’t have more efficient roads when we have lots of fatal crashes on our roads – that slows down traffic as well so the idea that travelling at 10km/h faster, 20km/h faster on narrow, dangerous, windy roads is somehow better for the economy is completely ridiculous,” Ms Genter said.

“Travel times aren’t as affected by minor changes to the speed limit as they may think. I actually think that both the National Party and the Road Transport Forum are being incredibly irresponsible in this debate – both of them signed up to the speed management guide in 2016 and if they’re really saying that hundreds of New Zealanders should continue to senselessly die and be seriously injured on our roads for no good reason, I think that would mean they’re very out of touch with the majority of New Zealanders.”

A new road safety strategy for 2020 onwards is due to be put out for public consultation, which may include lowering limits on some high risk roads.

The current strategy: Safer Speeds Package

The Safer Speeds Programme (Safer Speeds) is New Zealand’s new approach to speed management under the Safer Journeys strategy.

One of the Safer Journeys goals is to reduce the number of speed related crashes by 2020. While the road toll is significantly lower today than it was in 2010, there are still too many people dying or being seriously injured on our roads.

In 2015, speeding was a contributing factor in 93 fatal crashes, 410 serious injury crashes and 1286 minor injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 101 deaths, 496 serious injuries, and 1,831 minor injuries.

Safer Speeds recognises that the transport environment is changing, with better infrastructure and technology available to manage speed to improve safety outcomes and promote network efficiency. Safer Speeds provides a long-term approach to manage speed on the road network to support both safety and economic productivity.

Roads can also be made safer, but that’s expensive. How much should we pay to make roads safer? Or would it be more cost effective to just reduce speed limits?

Minister of Transport refers to “car fascists”

Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter at least attracted attention to an issue when she tweeted “We need a few car fascists to stop opposing infrastructure that gives more people the option to walk, cycle or scoot safely if they wish.”

But it’s worth seeing this in context.

And what’s as notable about this is that it’s possible for MPs to have reasonably civil engagement on Twitter.

It came in an exchange that started with:

In response:

Scott:

In that case you should support my desire to drive a gas guzzling V8 tank around. Fairs fair right?

Julie Anne Genter:

Um, are you taking up less road and parking space than the average vehicle, causing less damage to roads and pavements, and adding no pollution to the atmosphere? Because that was my case for why others benefit from me being able to travel safely by bike.

Scott:

You want your choice? great. But I’m entitled mine too right?

Julie Anne Genter:

You have that choice now, no one is stopping you. However, most people don’t feel they have the choice to cycle safely right now. The infrastructure is not there.

Scott:

I pay towards the road infrastructure through excise taxes. Will cyclists be contributing to their infrastructure on an equivalent user pays basis?

Julie Anne Genter:

Ratepayers pay for half of local infrastructure. People on bikes cost WAY less than people in cars. My point is that each additional person on a bike is way less costly & more beneficial to the efficiency of the road network than an additional car.

Car infrastructure is not “user pays”. Ratepayers pay half of local roads, and 90%+ of all parking costs are subsidised by all of us, no matter how we get around, thru higher land costs for all the off street parking that is not paid directly by motorists.

Not to mention the on street parking that is subsidised – instead of the local road space being used to optimally and safely move people, like those who would like to cycle, businesses and car drivers get free or cheap on street parking.

Some follow on exchanges:

Richard Swan:

In all fairness what is stopping anyone in Wellington walking to walk? Stopping anyone running to work?

Julie Anne Genter:

It’s not as pleasant or convenient as it could be (especially if you’re pushing a pram) in many places. The light phasing and infrastructure design treats people on foot as secondhand citizens, or makes them share with bikes, which is not ideal.

Richard Swan:

Really? Where are the footpaths putting people walking ? I run 140 km a week, including commuting to and from Karori so I am exceptionally confident I am more familiar with the state of footpaths in Wellington than you.

Julie Anne Genter:

Do you push a pram? Do you know anyone who has to use a wheelchair? You sound exceptionally more able bodied than most (including me 😂)

Richard Swan:

Well unless you want to remove Wellington’s hills , then Wellington has certain geographical constraints on wheel chair use….

Julie Anne Genter:

And yet some people get around in chairs or mobility scooters, many more walk with prams, and the infrastructure could be more amenable to their needs. Seperate cycle infrastructure means they don’t have to share the footpath with e-scooters, etc.

Another exchange:

Girvana:

Proud to be a car facist. Get me a T-shirt

Julie Anne Genter:

I guess it’s just a sad irony that the very infrastructure you oppose (along with much better frequent public transport) is by far the most cost effective way to improve the reliability of car journeys on the existing network of roads.

Girvana:

This council cannot even change bus operators successfully do no faith in PT changed. There is room for both but focussing on everything but extra roading is daft.

And another:

Michael Gaunt:

I support the move to more pedestrian friendly, public transport and low emissions…especially cycling. What’s a car fascist?

Julie Anne Genter:

The vocal minority of commentators who oppose safe cycle lanes. They oppose choice. They need to be called out. It’s got nothing to do with how you get around, it’s about opposing new infrastructure that improves safe choices.

Michael Gaunt:

Thx. I’d love more safe cycle ways. Our own bikes are massively underused because of fears around safety. I’m a fan of cycleways not being on the side of roads but different somehow.

Drug driver testing consultation by Government

Last week National MP Nick Smith tried to get a members’ bill trying to address drug driving fast tracked in Parliament.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened himself (an unusual move from the Speaker who is supposed to be neutral), and when Smith reacted in response sent Smith from Parliament. This escalated when Smith over-reacted and was then officially ‘named’ by the Speaker and copped a 1 day ban from Parliament.

See Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

This week the Government decided to do something about drug driver testing themselves.


Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

Ministry of Transport:  Drug Driving

Changes to the drug driver testing and enforcement system in New Zealand

The Government is considering making changes to New Zealand’s drug driver testing and enforcement regime. Research shows that many illicit and prescription drugs have the potential to impair driving, and studies show that New Zealanders are using those drugs and driving.

Addressing drug impaired driving is an important objective if we are to make our roads safer – since 2013, the number of road deaths in New Zealand has increased by nearly 50 percent. Drug driving is making an increasing contribution to this statistic.

The Government has decided that it is time to reconsider our approach to drug driving and the public should be involved in that conversation.

A Discussion Document has been developed to facilitate a conversation about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system. The consultation seeks feedback about:

  • How we can be better at detecting drug drivers and deterring drug driving?
  • The circumstances in which drivers should be tested for drugs?
  • How to decide which drugs to test for?
  • What evidence is required to establish a drug driving offence?
  • How we should deal with people caught drug driving?

Download the Discussion Document [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Consultation process

The Ministry requests written submissions and they must arrive by 5.00 pm Friday 28 June 2019 to be considered. Submissions can be forwarded to the Ministry at:

drugdrivingconsultation@transport.govt.nz

Also:

More funding announced for rural road safety

While most Ministers are on holiday Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has been busy promoting road safety. Today she announced extra funding for rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast. This follows earlier programmes to improve roads in The original Safety Boost Programme which made improvements in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Wanganui, Otago and Southland.

This looks timed to try to address road toll news over the holiday period and end of year.

Extra Boost for Rural Road Safety

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced an extension of the Government’s Safety Boost Programme to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural New Zealand roads.

“The Boost Programme will target 11 rural State highways that might not have high levels of traffic but still have plenty of risks like sharp corners and narrow stretches,” said 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.

“Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent. Shoulder widening at high risk sights can reduce serious crashes by up to 35 percent.

This summer’s Safety Boost is part of the $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme (SNP) – a collaborative, prioritised programme of proven safety improvements on high risk routes across New Zealand. The 670 kilometres of road upgrades in the Boost Programme is additional to the 870 kilometres of upgrades to high volume, high-risk State Highways in the SNP.

Extra Safety Boost for Manawatu-Wanganui Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include five Manawatu-Wanganui roads:

  • SH56: Makerua (SH57) to Palmerston North
  • SH57: SH3 to SH56
  • SH3: Palmerston North to Ashhurst
  • SH4: Whanganui to Raetihi
  • SH54: SH3 to Feilding

Extra Safety Boost for West Coast Roads

This will include two West Coast roads:

  • SH6 and SH67: Murchison to Westport
  • SH7: Hanmer Springs to Reefton

Extra Safety Boost for Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include four Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay roads:

  • SH2: Wairoa to Gisborne
  • SH35: Gisborne to Tolaga Bay
  • SH2: Gisborne to Matawai
  • SH5: SH2 to Te Haroto.

This can’t be annual budget spending. It must either be from a general roading fund or from some roading related tax.

Road deaths dominate Beehive news

With the Government in holiday mode there is not much information coming out of the Beehive ‘latest news’ at this time of year, apart from releases on the rod toll.

Provisional figure for 2018 road deaths

Police Minister Stuart Nash has extended his sympathies to the families and friends of the 380 people who died in vehicle accidents during 2018.

Mr Nash has confirmed the provisional number of road deaths for 2018 has exceeded the annual toll for 2017, when 378 people lost their lives. It is the worst annual figure since 2009, when 384 people were killed.

The provisional figures show fatalities are made up of the following demographics:

  • 49 per cent were the driver of the vehicle and 24 per cent were passengers
  • 14 per cent were motorbike riders or pillion passengers
  • 11 per cent were pedestrians
  • Just over one per cent were cyclists
  • 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent were female
  • 28 per cent were in the sixty-plus age group
  • 14 per cent were children or teenagers
  • 13 per cent were aged between 20 and 24 years
  • 48 per cent died in crashes on the open road on state highways
  • The region with the largest share of fatalities was Waikato at 17 per cent; followed by Auckland and Canterbury with 14 per cent each; and Manawatu/Wanganui on 12 per cent

More information is on the Ministry of Transport website: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/

Two thirds of deaths were men. Motorbikes are relatively dangerous.

Waikato is the most dangerous region. Interesting to see the toll less in Auckland, although a lot of the roads in Auckland are either motorways with separated lanes or urban streets.

Curiously the Canterbury toll is high, but the Otago toll is low, with most deaths on State Highway 1 north and south of Dunedin.

This toll has since increased to 382 –Death in hospital lifts 2018 road toll (ODT) A man injured in a Nelson car crash last month has died – taking last year’s road toll up to 382.

Let’s make 2019 different and take care on our roads

After another tragic year on New Zealand roads, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is emphasising Government’s commitment to improving the country’s road safety record.

“It is staggering and unnecessary loss of life – equivalent in scale to a major airline crash,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“It is yet another reminder of the need to make substantial improvements to road safety in New Zealand.

“Many deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable.”

‘Are preventable’ keeps getting trotted out with deaths – of course road deaths are ‘preventable’, if no one used cars, or if ten times as much was spent improving road safety. Banning motorbikes would prevent deaths, as would banning male drivers.

This Government is committed to reducing deaths and serious injuries through new thinking, more funding and prioritised action.

“The Government is investing $1.4 billion over three years to make urgent safety improvements across our high-risk roads. On high volume state highways New Zealanders can expect to see more improvements like life-saving median and side barriers and crash-preventing rumble strips.

“This year we will be consulting the public on a new road safety strategy and action plan to drive substantial improvements in road safety in New Zealand,” said Julie Anne Genter.

Road safety is a good thing to invest in. Accidents and deaths have a major impact on many people and families.

Too many people killed over Christmas

The official holiday period has ended with nine people tragically killed in crashes on New Zealand roads. This is three people fewer than the 12 who died last holiday season.

Much of the previous release was repeated.

More information http://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/christmasnew-year-holiday-period-road-deaths/

Using roads or streets is one of the biggest risks we take in our lives. Because we travel so much it is easy to take safety for granted.

Unfortunately some deaths are caused by others at no fault of the victims – there is nothing much we can do about this but support Government expenditure on safety measures, and hope like hell it doesn’t happen to ourselves.

 

Genter acknowledges road toll reality

Last April Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter suggested an ambitious (and unrealistic) target “As part of the development of a new road safety strategy the Government will investigate setting a target of zero road deaths.” See Zero car target for zero road toll, or zero credibility?

After a year as a Minister she now sounds more realistic. NZ Herald:  It will be ‘many decades’ before the road toll is substantially reduced, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter

It will be “many decades” before New Zealand sees a substantial change in the road toll, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

Her comments come after New Zealand experienced its highest road toll since 2009, with almost 400 deaths last year.

Genter said the Government was in the process of implementing its road safety strategy – a strategy she said would save lives.

But this would take time, she said.

“The reality is these things take time and [there’s] a huge amount of road upgrades that need to be completed.”

In December last year, the Government committed $1.4 billion to making roads safer.

The policy, called the Safe Network Programme, aims to make 870km of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

That policy strategy will be in place in 2020, but Genter said it would be a process of “many decades to substantially bring down deaths and serious injuries on our roads”.

“We’re talking about road deaths and serious injury having increased over a five year period. It took time for that to start happening, it’s going to take time for it to turn around as well.”

In 2007, the road toll climbed to 421 people – that figure fell to 253 in 2013 before going back up to 382 last year.

In terms of how long it would take to bring the road toll back down, Genter said the Government would be working on setting those targets.

“The targets haven’t been set exactly, but we’re making the improvements to the roads and we’re building up safer speeds. I want to see this happen as soon as possible but we live in a democracy so there are certain approaches we have to take.

“But the quicker we can roll out safer speeds, the sooner we will see a reduction in deaths and serious injuries.”

We keep putting ourselves at risk of road deaths and injuries – for most of it travelling by road is the most risk thing we do apart from consumption of too much food, alcohol and drugs. People who are not at fault are at risk.

But the reality that Genter now acknowledges is that will take a significant amount of time and money to reduce the road toll to any sustainable extent.

But it is much better than it has been, despite a much bigger population and many more vehicles on the roads.

The New Zealand road toll peaked in 1973 at 843, a horrendous year – the toll for the seventies:

  • 1969 – 570
  • 1970 – 655
  • 1971 – 677
  • 1972 – 713
  • 1973 – 843
  • 1974 – 676
  • 1975 – 628
  • 1976 – 609
  • 1977 – 702
  • 1978 – 654
  • 1979 – 554

Drink driving was a major factor then, before policing was increased.

It has dropped considerably since then, but has fluctuated:

  • 2010 – 375
  • 2011 – 284
  • 2012 – 308
  • 2013 – 253
  • 2014 – 293
  • 2015 – 319
  • 2016 – 327
  • 2017 – 378
  • 2018 – 380

While this is a lot lower than the seventies the rise is a concern,.

Stats: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/annual-number-of-road-deaths-historical-information/

 

$1.4 billion spending announced to make roads safer, reduce deaths

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter have announced a $1.4 billion, three-year programme to make New Zealand’s highest risk roads safer. They haven’t said where the money is coming from.

The Safe Network Programme will make 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

The programme will target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to 800 million of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.

Phil Twyford said the Safe Network Programme will build urgent safety improvements on our roads at scale and pace over the next three years to save lives.

he Safe Network Programme is just one part of the Transport Agency’s safety programme. The Transport Agency continues to invest in a wide range of programmes delivered across the safety spectrum including road safety maintenance, advertising and education, road policing, active modes and public transport, all of which support improved safety outcomes.

Safety improvements in Safe Network Programme will include:

  • fixing dangerous corners
  • installing roadside and median safety barriers
  • shoulder widening
  • further safety improvements for high risk intersections
  • rumble strips
  • improving skid resistance
  • improving rail level crossing safety
  • setting safe and appropriate speed limits.

Safe Network Programme - national map

That suggests the new safety measures will prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year, a significant number but less than half the current road toll.

Julie Anne 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 2,020 to 2,836 per year over the same period.

“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.”

Earlier this year Genter said the Government was looking at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020. Stuff: Government looks at targeting zero road deaths and serious injuries from 2020

The Government will look at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020 as it strives to curb the country’s “unacceptable” road toll.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter made the announcement at the local government road safety summit in Wellington on Monday, telling guests local and central government needed to work together to make the ambition a reality.

“We need a new [road safety] strategy. We need a clear idea of the outcomes we want and the steps we need to take to get there,”

“I believe this is a transformational Government. It is a Government that can set ambitious targets, whether on child poverty, on climate change, or road safety.”

“Clear, truly ambitious targets drive policy and help deliver meaningful change. That’s why this Government will investigate adopting a target of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

While the target could be considered “audacious”, all road deaths and serious injuries were avoidable, and New Zealanders had become “desensitised” to the rising casualties, Genter said.

The Government would also no longer refer to the “road toll”, instead referring to “road deaths” to acknowledge the people who had lost their lives and the fact road deaths were not inevitable.

There was no mention of the zero deaths in yesterday’s announcement.

More information about the Safe Network Programme, including a map: www.nzta.govt.nz/safe-network-programme

Greens trying to attract attention on social, environmental issues

The business end of the Green Party – their ministers – have had a low profile and have been overshadowed by Labour and NZ First. This hasn’t been helped by Julie Anne Genter being on maternity leave, but James Shaw and Eugenie Sage aren’t attention seeker types of MPs anyway. They have largely pout their heads down and got on with their new jobs.

But they are trying to change this, albeit in a very low key way.

Stuff:  Greens look to social issues and rivers in second year of Government

The Green Party is keen to advance social policies in their second year of Government, like a promise to give free mental health services to anyone under 25.

The party put out a release looking ahead to their second year of Government on Saturday morning, despite the anniversary not falling for another month and a half.

Remarkably I went looking for this and can’t find anything other than the Stuff report – I can’t find it on the Green Party website, nor on their Facebook page, nor on the Green or Shaw’s Twitter feeds. What are their PR people playing at?

In it, co-leader James Shaw talks up the party’s priorities for the second year of the Government.

“Our key objectives for our second year in a Government with Labour and New Zealand First will include transforming our social safety net so no child is left in poverty,” Shaw said.

“We’re going to work really hard to address the mental health crisis in New Zealand, working towards accessible mental health services irrespective of where you live or what you earn, with free mental health services for anyone under 25.”

That mental health policy was campaigned on by the Greens and is included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party – so has a good chance of actually happening.

If NZ First don’t hobble it. Shaw doesn’t sound overly confident here.

But other changes to protect New Zealand’s waterways and introduce a rental warrant of fitness have not been agreed to by the other governing parties.

“No one said this was going to be easy. This Government holds a diversity of views, just like our community does, and everything we work on must be worked through together, as adults,” Shaw said.

It won’t be easy. Not only do Greens need to get Labour into giving their policies some sort of priority, they also have to convince NZ First to back them as well, or National.

“That is the beauty of a diverse Government and a world-leading MMP voting system, the alternative is US-style politics with mega parties that hold all the power, representing the few.”

Lipstick on a pig of a governing arrangement?

The tussles between Labour and Winston Peters are looking ugly enough, and Peters is likely to be even less willing to concede policies and power to Shaw.

As much as Shaw may like to promote a Green wave of progress, he doesn’t seem to be a strong leader and he has a weak political hand to play with.

He isn’t a politician that naturally attracts attention through controversy, and especially after Metiria Turei’s disaster last year he is unlikely to want to risk a stunt approach.

So what else can Shaw do but plug away nicely and quietly? Probably not a lot.

It doesn’t help when the party puts out a release on a Saturday morning, a very slow political news time, and does not make it available on any of the major social media platforms nor their website as far as I can see – and I went looking.