Transport Minister Michael Wood has acknowledged Northland's plea for extra road maintenance and said residents' concerns about the region's abysmal state highways were a "significant factor" in the extra funding recently announced.
Earlier this month Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency announced $750m for Northland roads over the next three years as part of the National Land Transport Programme.
This included $344m road maintenance, $103m for ''Road to Zero'' safety measures to bring down the region's road toll, and $32m to replace a one-way bridge north of Kaeo with a roundabout and a two-lane crossing.
The funding comes after an extensive campaign by The Northern Advocate and AA Northland District Council to raise awareness about the region's appalling roads and state highways, which started in April.
The campaign culminated in Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime accepting a list of the worst spots supplied by Northlanders which she promised to pass onto the transport minister and Waka Kotahi.
Wood said the 2021-24 programme was a "record level of investment" in road maintenance for Northland following "a long period of neglect under the previous government".
He said he valued the advocacy from Prime, along with Whangārei MP Emily Henderson and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, adding: "The concerns they and communities in other parts of the country raised about road maintenance was a significant factor in the Government's decision to loan an additional $2 billion to Waka Kotahi to stop our roads from deteriorating".
"I've received the list from The Northern Advocate and this has been passed onto Waka Kotahi," Wood said.
Northland has the highest rate of road deaths in New Zealand per head of population, the AA says.
The number of fatalities in Northland per 100,000 population in 2020 when 28 people died was 14.4, while the national average was 6.3.
Recent data states that in six months to June 2021, 71 per cent of the road deaths in Northland occurred on state highways compared with the national average of 47 per cent.
Though there are various factors involved in the crashes, research has shown the link between road maintenance and safety.
Furthermore, a review of state highway data by the Northland Transportation Alliance shows Northland is worse off than the national average in each key indicator including skid resistance, seal life, road roughness, smooth travel exposure and rutting.
On a visit to the Far North in July, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted that not enough had been spent on road maintenance in Northland.
She asked for a list of the worst stretches of state highway to check with Waka Kotahi how they had become so bad.
Northlanders responded to the call in record numbers, taking time to pen more than 60 emails and hundreds of comments on social media.
Prime, who accepted the list in August and passed it onto Ardern's office and to the transport minister, said she was "really pleased" with the extra investment.
She looked forward to the programme of works starting this summer.
"The minister has acknowledged there has been decades of neglect," Prime said.
"I think it was due to a lot of advocacy from us MPs in Northland, and the list The Northern Advocate provided and other feedback I sent through to them.
"They've [Waka Kotahi] also worked with the councils to determine those areas for investment.
"With this type of investment, we are able to try and address the past deficit in funding.... to get a better-quality network."
Of the $344m for road maintenance in Northland, local roads will get a total of $246.3m; $98.5m for the Far North, Kaipara $53m and Whangārei $94.8m.
The remaining $97.7m will be spent on state highways, which are managed by Waka Kotahi.
In the previous 2018 to 2021 funding period, $38m was spent on repairing and resurfacing 574 lane kms of Northland state highways.
Waka Kotahi said 161 lane kms of state highway will be renewed this summer, and a further 258 lane kms is planned for the following two years.
"However, this could change due to a number of factors including the weather, with wet winters and dry summers often impacting pavement condition," Waka Kotahi Northland System Manager Kobus Du Toit said.
Resealing and repairs will start this month and ramps up in October as the days become longer and warmer.
Kirikopuni on SH14 west of Maungatapere will be the first to see work done, followed by similar work in Tangiteroria later in the year.
NZTA's pre-Christmas asphalting programme will include work at locations on SH1, starting at Puhoi and moving north to sites including Te Hana, Kaiwaka, Whangārei, Ōhaeawai and Kaitāia.
Work in these areas will be carried out at night in order to minimise disruption.
"We ask all motorists to slow down and keep to temporary speed limits," Du Toit said.
"The speed limit applies on both sides of the road even though work may only be occurring in one lane at a time.
"This helps to keep our teams safe, while slow-moving traffic helps to bed in the new seal and reduces the movement of loose stone chips."
However, the road maintenance funding won't all be spent on actual roads.
Du Toit said state highway maintenance encompasses "a variety of works including but not limited to vegetation clearance, litter, drainage works and road maintenance".