When you have been around a while, you become mindful of changes that have happened over the past 10 years and reflect on how these changes have come about. Two such observations are the amount of scaffolding that is erected alongside many buildings and the number of orange road cones that populate our roads.
You could see both phenomena as great signs of economic activity. Significant maintenance and improvements to our roading environment and many of the commercial buildings in our CBD are getting a long-overdue spruce-up or complete renovation.
While it great to see the CBD activity, much of the scaffolding around the place is about new safety regulations that have become a pre-eminent requirement to keep employees, the public and the workplace as a safe working environment.
The scaffolding is a pretty significant cost component of many building jobs, but it serves to create safe and easy access as well as putting workers directly in front of where they need to work. No longer is it okay to rely on the ubiquitous ladder.
Many of the workplace safety improvements had their catalyst in the Pike River mine disaster more than 10 years ago. The subsequent investigation showed up abominable workplace practices, which culminated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
For many of the people who are responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the roads we drive on, it is also their workplace. Hence, the proliferation of roadside cones does not necessarily reflect a huge improvement in our roads.
It's more likely to be an outcome of the implementation of the new act and a heightened legislative consciousness of needing to improve the safety of our roads for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and the contracting teams working on them.
Each of these work sites is subject to a Traffic Management Plan, the TMP. These things don't come cheap and there is a long waiting list of TMPs being processed.
You need to be well prepared to be allowed to enter and work at our roadsides. The TMP specifies everything about the job. The location, date, hours of work, who is doing the work, the work methodology, temporary speed limits and how the site will be managed.
The plan seeks to manage the temporary road disruption to minimise inconvenience while creating safe conditions for road users and those carrying out the activity.
There is no question when you see a whole line of orange cones, with stop-go operating at each end and plenty of machinery and people present, that you need to do what you are told.
Most drivers seem to appreciate the work and helpfulness of those who are improving our roading network.
The AA regularly surveys its members about their driving experiences and, consistently, one of the biggest beefs is seeing roadworks signs with temporary speed limits when there is no apparent work going on.
That attitude is a bit disingenuous to those implementing the TMP for the job.
The temporary speed limit reflects what is happening at the site. It's 30km/h if road workers are present, if the road is reduced to one lane or if there are stop-go controls.
Even when the bulk of the work has been completed, a temporary speed limit of 50km/h on the open road is necessary because of loose chip, the road is still bedding down, there are no road markings, and high speed or heavy braking just breaks down the new seal.
So, temporary speed limits are necessary around unattended roadworks to assure the road repair.
Windscreen repair companies often have a field day at this time of the year as a result of speeding through work sites and it is usually the complying driver who is the victim.
As well as flying chip from speeding, there may be loss-of-control crashes created by distracted rubberneckers, and that justifies the need to be cautious.
Roadworks are a working environment and we want all users of the road to arrive home safely.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.