Northland's roads are dire and the Automobile Association wants a campaign to revitalise road maintenance across the country to start in the region, which has more than double the national road death rate.
AA says almost an extra $1 billion is needed over the next three years just to clear essential maintenance work on the nation's roads.
Consultation on the Northland Regional Land Transport Plan closes this week and more funding to better maintain Northland's roads needs to be at the heart of it, AA Northland District Council chairwoman Tracey Rissetto said.
"Well maintained roads are safer roads and Northland needs big improvements in both areas," Rissetto said.
"Northland's rate of road deaths is consistently two to three times higher than the New Zealand average. If Northland could just get down to the average rate of road deaths for New Zealand it would mean nearly 20 fewer people killed each year."
In Northland there have been 160 deaths and 810 serious injuries from road crashes in the last 5 years.
Road deaths in Northland per 100,000 population in 2020 when 28 people died was 14.4, while the New Zealand average was 6.3.
At the same time, hospitalisations for at least one day per 100,000 population in Northland was 108, compared to the New Zealand average of 69.
Rissetto said road maintenance impacted a vehicle's grip with the road, its risk of skidding and the driver losing control. Even the best driver can lose control if the road they are on did not have good grip and research had shown the link between road maintenance and safety.
"There are many factors involved in Northland's poor road safety record and it can't be solved with just one change. The Regional Land Transport Plan will set the transport direction for the next decade and it needs to have a large-scale increase in road maintenance as an urgent priority or it will be a huge missed opportunity."
She wants Northlanders to make submissions on the plan.
The move is supported by Northland road safety campaigners.
RoadSafe Northland programme manager Ashley Johnston said any move to improve the standard of the region's roads, and make them safer for motorists, had to be good.
''We need people to stand up and speak out about road safety. We know the stats are bad, in terms of more than double the national average (for road deaths) but what they don't tell us is the state of the roads, and it's obvious that our roads are not up to the standard of the rest of the country.''
John Williamson, chairman of RoadSafe Northland and the Northland Road Safety Trust, said the region's poor road death and accident rate was much more than just the poor state of the roads, but that was a big factor. Poor driving habits, including high rates of drink and drugged driving, and not wearing seat belts, also contributed.
''It's much more expensive to do road building or maintenance up here so we don't have the same standard of roads as the rest of the country,'' he said.
''The local councils do the best they can on our roads, but the fact is there's just not enough money.''
He said the Government should recognise Northland's special status because of is geology - the ground is just not as solid as the rest of the country so needs more work to prepare it properly for roading - but the Government gives the same funding per kilometre of roading whether it is in Northland or Canterbury.
''That (geology) means the roading and maintenance costs here are higher than the rest of the country. So there's a really strong case for more funding for roading in Northland to bring them up to the standards enjoyed by the rest of the country.''
Williamson said the Government's Provincial Growth Fund money gave hundreds of millions to shovel-ready projects last year.
''But some of those projects are not as vital as roading, so some of that funding should perhaps have been given to regions like Northland to improve the roads. We're shovel-ready and our roads need it.''
Analysis by the AA has highlighted insufficient funding being available for road maintenance across the country from successive governments but the situation is particularly dire in Northland.
Rissetto said 65 per cent of AA Members in Northland rated their roads as very poor or sub-standard in the AA's annual District Concerns survey last month. This was twice as bad as the average rating across the country where 33 per cent of AA Members rated their roads as very poor or sub-standard.
"The drivers on the roads in Northland know they can and should be better quality than they are. Northland is not the only part of the country where road maintenance has been under-funded but we are one of the worst affected and the Regional Land Transport Plan needs to demand much more investment in this area from central government,'' Rissetto said.
"Roads need regular repairs and renewal to keep them at the standard they should be. There simply hasn't been enough funding to do that for many years but the opportunity is there for decision-makers to turn that around."
The AA has calculated that an additional $930 million is needed nationwide over the next three years to clear the backlog of essential maintenance work and reverse the decline in road quality.
More and more roads across the country are reaching tipping points where, without an increase in maintenance now, they will need much more extensive and costly work in the near future to get them back to an acceptable standard.
"More investment in road maintenance makes sense in terms of safety, and economically. Our regional leaders need to be urging central government now to lift the funding available for road maintenance,'' she said.
"Motorists pay billions in fuel tax and road user charges each year and that amount has only been going up. In return they expect the roads they drive on will be maintained to a good standard but right now the funding isn't enough to deliver that.
"Much of Northland's population lives in rural communities and our roads are our lifelines for our economy, our education and our social connections."
The plan can be viewed at nrc.govt.nz/transportplan and consultation runs until March 26.