Plans for resealing on Hawke's Bay roads over the next year fall well short of the mark needed to improve crucial link the Napier-Taupo road, says Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
The "$12 million programme of maintenance and renewal works for Hawkes Bay including a large renewal [resealing, rebuilding and water cutting] programme for SH5" doesn't include "major capital works", highways manager Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency says.
The last major capital project on the Hawke's Bay sector of the near-130km from Taupo to Eskdale was the Dillon's Hill realignment, about 12km from Napier and built in 2008-2010 at a cost of $1.8m.
Hazlehurst believes the loss of eight lives in crashes since last December, and a serious crash last weekend, continue a trend which calls for a much greater response.
She said she is "pleased" the NZTA is taking community concerns about the state of the highway seriously and it's "good they're doing a road safety campaign with Police and Roadsafe Hawke's Bay".
"While increasing maintenance on our highways is important, spending $12m on maintenance for all state highways across Hawke's Bay, which includes SH5, SH2 and the Hawke's Bay Expressway is just not enough," she said.
"We are concerned there is still a major lack of investment going towards improving the Napier-Taupo road and every weekend there seems to be a serious or fatal crash."
"They need to consider investing in measures such as more maintenance and renewal, passing lanes, safety barriers and road realignment to help protect our community who use this road," Hazlehurst said.
NZTA regional transport systems manager Oliver Postings says the agency has a $12m programme of maintenance and renewal works for Hawke's Bay in the current 2020-2021 financial year – "including a large renewal [resealing, rebuilding and water cutting] programme" for the highway, otherwise known as part of State Highway 5 and the Thermal Explorer Highway.
Concerns and calls for action on the condition of the road have mounted in recent months, as the number of serious crashes mounts.
In the past two weeks alone two people, one a truck driver and the other a ute driver, have been critically injured after their vehicles left the road in sudden and dramatic circumstances.
Postings said the maintenance and renewal was an "ongoing programme" to keep the road safe for motorists, based on evidence and data, to ensure value for taxpayers' money.
"We continue to invest in proactively monitoring and treating skid resistance," he said.
"There will be an increase in resurfacing work over the next five years, of up to 10-12 per cent of the network length each year."
He said NZTA is also continuing to investigate whether other safety improvements can be undertaken, he said, adding: "Safety is always Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's top priority. The recent deaths and serious injuries which have resulted from crashes on SH5 are a terrible tragedy for everyone affected, and Waka Kotahi is investigating ways to make SH5 safer."
The transport authority is undertaking a technical assessment on the current speed limits on nearly 130km of the highway from its eastern end at SH2 between Bay View and Eskdale and SH1 near Taupo.
He said the assessment will take into account crash history, average vehicle speeds, the volume of traffic on the road and development of surrounding areas, and will help the agency to determine whether changing the speed limits is the best thing to do to improve road safety; where new speed limits might begin or end; and whether any other safety improvements are needed.