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A slew of recent roading announcements by Government could have many in our rural sector shaking their heads.

The common-sense approach is that you keep people safe on the roads by engineering roads to be safe. Safer roads mean investment. Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s comment that New Zealand has been spending too much money on roads for decades would be hard to understand for anyone who has lived in a rural area.

Last month, our rural residents heard that Government is proposing to make higher-emission vehicles more expensive in order to subsidise electric vehicles. We support lowering transport emissions but this could be done through more positive initiatives than adding taxes on those for whom electric cars would not be viable when they can’t cover the distances or do the work in rural areas, especially under adverse weather conditions. Electric vehicles also require good roading networks.

Which makes it harder to understand why National’s second generation of Roads of National Significance can’t get over the line with the current Government.

In our own community, a new action group has been launched to drive the fight to make State Highway 1 at Woodend and Pegasus safer, and bring the Woodend Bypass back to the table, following a public meeting I held with National’s leader Simon Bridges. Residents have tasked me to bring NZTA to front the Make SH1 Safer Committee and residents at a meeting I’m organising at the Woodend Rugby Club. While it’s hard to separate out the delayed NZTA Safer Road project to address speed, safety and congestion issues from the need to bring the Woodend Bypass back onto the table with a confirmed date, I think our residents agree that dangerous misses and accidents need to be addressed urgently. Current daily vehicle movements of over 16,000 vehicles, expected to reach 26,000 in 10 years’ time, have triggered the urgency of these projects.

If Government is serious about wanting to save lives then it will reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads.

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