Paul Goldsmith's opinion piece on road safety and the Government's plan to save lives on the road (NZ Herald, June 11) was riddled with inaccuracies. I'm setting the record straight.
Goldsmith says the Government is proposing radical reductions in speed limits across the country. This is not true. Our Government has no intention to reduce the speed limit on the vast bulk of our roads. We are taking a balanced approach to making our roads safer – focusing on investing more in proven safety improvements, safe driving messages and investigating lower speed limits for the most dangerous roads in the country.
We hear from some communities living on and around dangerous roads that they want to have safer, lower speed limits. For example, Taupō mayor David Trewavas said he would welcome speed limits being dropped in his area following a number of tragedies on local roads.
Just because we're investing more than ever before on safety upgrades, rail and public transport doesn't mean we can't build more roads. Our Government can walk and chew gum at the same time.
It's about the right speed limit for the right stretch of road. Research from NZTA shows there is support for lowering the speed limits on the most dangerous roads. NZTA's approach will be very targeted and they will consult with local communities. The most important things drivers can do is slow down and drive to the conditions. Speed is the single biggest factor that determines the outcome of a crash. The speed people drive through towns also has a big effect on how those communities live and play.
While Goldsmith acknowledges that deaths on the road increased under the former Government's watch, he tries to argue that these numbers bounce around every year. If you look at the data from 1987 until 2013, there is a clear trend of the number of deaths decreasing. Then from 2013 until last year, the number of deaths ballooned by over 50 per cent.
In my view, the increases in deaths on the road under the former Government is a clear result of their choice to invest 40 per cent of the transport budget on a few handpicked motorways that only carry 4 per cent of vehicle journeys, while starving the rest of the transport network. Safety infrastructure was not seriously invested in and our local and rural roads were largely ignored.
Goldsmith also argues that because our population has increased and people are travelling more, it's only natural that road deaths would increase. That's outrageous when you look at countries such as the UK, Sweden, and Denmark where population has grown but road deaths have decreased. Goldsmith does mention Sweden but fails to note that his former Government did not follow Sweden's approach and take a balanced approach to investing across their transport network.
Under our Government, our neglected regional roads are getting $600 million more and we're investing $1.4 billion over the next three years in targeted road safety upgrades, like median and side barriers and wider shoulders. When fully rolled out, we're expecting these to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year.
Goldsmith alleges all major roading projects have been cancelled. That's nonsense. It only takes a trip out to Transmission Gully, Waikato Expressway, SH1 Puhoi to Warkworth or the Christchurch northern motorway to see that we're getting on with building vital roads. And there's many more coming such as the Mt Messenger Bypass or the Matakana Link Rd. Just because we're investing more than ever before on safety upgrades, rail and public transport doesn't mean we can't build more roads. Our Government can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Paul Goldsmith: Lower speeds a fraction of the solution
Don't like the idea of reduced speed limits? Be a better driver!
Several Opposition MPs have said our Government made a cut to the police road safety budget. Again, not true. Our road safety partnership programme includes $1b in funding for road policing with $352m in funding already approved for 2018-2019. This three-year funding represents an increase of $85 million above the previous Government's road policing programme. Moreover, police are already testing for drug-drivers and our Government is currently consulting on how we can improve the process to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel.
Safety is our top transport priority and we're getting on with installing lifesaving safety upgrades on our state highways and local roads – over 3000km of them. We're investing more in regional roads, building roads and investing in police. Speed is only one small part of our plan to help more Kiwis get home safe. We're fixing up the mess the last Government left us and getting on with tackling the long-term issues.
• Phil Twyford is Transport Minister