The Government must ramp up investment in road maintenance immediately, as data shows an alarming decline in the quality of road surfaces around the country.
A group of leading transport and infrastructure advocacy organisations – including the Association of Consultants and Engineers, the Automobile Association, Civil Contractors NZ, Employers and Manufacturers Association, Infrastructure NZ, and the Road Transport Forum – has come together to demand urgent action.
AA General Manager for Motoring Affairs Mike Noon says that investment in road maintenance was wound back heavily in real terms over much of the last decade, with the result being that road surfaces on more and more of the network now need urgent repair (key statistics are provided below).
“Our state highways and local roads are becoming more difficult and more dangerous to drive on – anyone driving around the country over the last few years has noticed it. It’s bad news for road safety, it makes for an unpleasant driving experience, and it’s unfair.
“Road users pay a huge amount in fuel tax and road user charges, and that has only been going up over the last decade. If there’s one thing they expect in return, it’s that roads they drive on will be maintained to a decent standard – right now, they’re being badly let down. Even the best driver can lose control if the road they’re on doesn’t have good grip.”
The group says that the Government has missed a massive opportunity to get our roads back up to standard, and also to stimulate the economy, through the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The Fund has committed over $1 billion towards “shovel-ready” transport projects to help generate economic activity, but none of this has been directed towards road maintenance.
Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Nick Leggett says that, from an economic stimulus perspective, road maintenance offers a number of benefits over and above investment in other forms of infrastructure.
“Road maintenance projects deliver excellent value for money, they’re labour intensive, they’re needed all over the country, and they can start immediately. Investment in road maintenance is an excellent chance to create jobs, improve road safety, and deliver transport benefits that really matter to New Zealanders – it’s a no-brainer.”
While the road maintenance budget has increased in the last two years, Nick says it’s not enough to deal with the backlog.
“Enough is now being put in to cover current wear and tear, but what about the wear and tear over the last decade that was never addressed?
“We are calling on the Government to invest around $300 million extra per year for the next three years, sourced from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. And adequate investment needs to continue after that, to make sure we don’t slide back into the hole.”
Road maintenance key statistics (sourced from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency):
- Between 2008/9 and 2018/19, the volume of resurfacing work completed was 33% below the targets NZTA sets to maintain a safe network
- Over the same period, the volume of foundation replacement work was 50% below NZTA targets
- The proportion of the road network not meeting the minimum standard for skid resistance has more than doubled, from 2.13% to 4.7% (representing over 500 lane kms)
- Average seal life remaining reduced by 50% from 2.4 to 1.2 years
- Four out of five measures of roughness and rutting have got worse (on average 14% worse)