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John MacDonald: Road repairs and forward planning? Yeah nah

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jan 2023, 12:50PM
Photo / Andrew Warner
Photo / Andrew Warner

John MacDonald: Road repairs and forward planning? Yeah nah

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jan 2023, 12:50PM

What’s the chance, do you think, of New Zealand taking a long-term view and coming up with a 50-year plan for roads?

I’d say it’d be something close to diddly squat, going by the level of commitment and foresight that seems to be going into roading at the moment.

Not that it’s stopped the outfit representing trucking firms, the National Road Carriers Association, from dreaming the dream and coming out today and saying it wants two things from the Government.

First, an annual commitment to spend whatever it takes to repair every piece of roading that needs fixing. We’re talking potholes and all the other hazards out there.

And second, it wants to see a 50-year plan for roading in New Zealand. On that one, I think 50 years is a bit much because who knows what the roading needs are going to be in 50 years time.

But, generally, I’m right behind them. Because for too long now, the approach to roading in New Zealand has been pretty haphazard with what appears to be cosmetic repairs and not much more.

I know we’ve had some new highways and things - in some places, anyway. But that’s often been dependent on the government of the day and its enthusiasm for big roading projects.

Which is why the Road Carriers Association wants a plan. So that governments of the day know there is a long-term commitment that can’t be changed because of political ideology.

And it’s no coincidence that it’s come out today and said this because with the changes going on at the Beehive at the moment, every Tom, Dick and Harry is pushing for their area of interest to be prioritised.

Where the trucking firms have a very good case, though, is the link they’re highlighting between the state of the roads and the financial impact it is having on all of us.

We’re not just talking about those of us who end up with damaged cars because of potholes and other hazards. We’re talking about the fact that 93 percent of goods in this country are delivered by truck.

Which means that, if a truck gets damaged, we all end up paying the price for it.

So, with the new Prime Minister saying he wants to make life cheaper for us, the trucking firms have taken the chance to point out that the appalling state of our roads is hitting pretty much everyone in the pocket. And it’s calling for change.

I think where things get a bit murky, is the fact that roads aren’t just the responsibility of central government.

Local councils are responsible for a lot of the roading network too. So this annual commitment the trucking firms want to ensure all roads that need fixing get fixed, couldn’t just rely on central government. Local government would have to be in on the act, as well.

But, either way, I’m with the trucking companies on this.

As for the long-term roading plan that they’re also calling for, I think something like a 10-year plan would be more realistic, and certainly more likely to get political support.

Because governments come up with 10-year plans for all sorts of things. Cutting the road toll. Getting rid of smoking. Why not a 10-year plan to make sure that the roads we have in the future are what’s needed and, more importantly, up to scratch.

Because, at the moment, they’re not up to scratch. Waka Kotahi has admitted as much recently with its plan to reduce speed limits all around the country.

It says 100 kph isn’t a safe speed for our roads. But what it actually means, is that our roads aren’t safe enough for 100 kph. And there is a difference.

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