Kiwi road users being let down on road maintenance

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 9, 2020

A group of leading transport and infrastructure advocacy organisations – including the Association of Consultants and Engineers, the Automobile Association, Civil Contractors NZ, Employers and Manufacturers Association, Infrastructure NZ, and the Road Transport Forum – is demanding urgent action, saying the government must ramp up investment in road maintenance immediately, as data shows an alarming decline in the quality of road surfaces around the country.

AA general manager for motoring affairs Mike Noon says that investment in road maintenance was wound back heavily in real terms over much of the past decade, with the result being that road surfaces on more and more of the network now need urgent repair.

“Our state highways and local roads are becoming more difficult and more dangerous to drive on – anyone driving around the country over the past few years has noticed it. It‘s bad news for road safety, it makes for an unpleasant driving experience, and it‘s unfair.

“Road users pay a huge amount in fuel tax and road user charges, and that has only been going up over the past decade. If there‘s one thing they expect in return, it‘s that roads they drive on will be maintained to a decent standard – right now, they‘re being badly let down. Even the best driver can lose control if the road they‘re on doesn‘t have good grip.”

The group says that the government has missed a massive opportunity to get New Zealand‘s roads back up to standard, and also to stimulate the economy, through the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The fund has committed more than $620 million towards ‘shovel-ready‘ transport projects to help generate economic activity, but none of this has been directed towards road maintenance.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett says that, from an economic stimulus perspective, road maintenance offers a number of benefits.

“Road maintenance projects deliver excellent value for money, they‘re labour intensive, they‘re needed all over the country, and they can start immediately – they are literally ‘shovel-ready‘. Investment in road maintenance is an excellent chance to create jobs, improve road safety, and deliver transport benefits that really matter to all New Zealanders.”

While the road maintenance budget has increased in the past two years, and further increases are planned, Leggett says it‘s not enough to address years of underinvestment.

“In some areas, road surfaces are so poor they are costing road users in damage to their vehicles. Interestingly, trucking operators have had a five percent increase in road user charges in eight of the past 10 years. Essentially they keep paying more, but getting less value from roads.

“We are calling on the government to invest around $300 million extra per year on road surface repairs for the next three years, sourced from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. And adequate investment needs to continue after that, to make sure we don‘t slide back into the hole.”