Government ‘soft’ on road safety


The Government has broken a promise it announced in Queenstown to make roads safer for green tourist drivers.

Associate transport minister Craig Foss set a deadline of July to complete highways works aimed at reducing the number of accidents.

Foss made the announcement back in March, on the day of the funeral of 5-year-old Oamaru girl Ruby Marris, killed in a car crash with a tourist driver.

The work is still not finished.

That’s led Ruby’s uncle Chris Cant to label the Government “soft” on road safety.

Cant says without tougher, mandatory measures he fears more people will be killed this summer in accidents involving foreign drivers.

“The biggest disappointment with our family is that where Ruby’s accident was, it’s a high-volume tourist area.

“There’s not even any arrows been put in down that part of the road, which is pretty disappointing because there’s been another accident since then.”

He criticises the Government for not adopting stricter measures, such as mandatory driver testing, saying politicians were probably hoping the issue would ”blow over”.

“They say that it’s not practical and it’s too hard to put these measures into place to make things mandatory, but as we’ve said before, it’s not very practical burying a 5-year-old girl, either.”

Ruby was killed, and her parents and two sisters were injured, in a crash involving a foreign driver at Moeraki on February 21. 

Foss announced in Queenstown on March 5 that 50km of extra centreline rumble strips, 140km of no-passing markings and 200km of highways marked with “keep left” arrows would be completed by July 1.

The announcement followed nationwide publicity on the issue, including several incidents in which vigilante New Zealanders stopped rental vehicles and took keys from foreign drivers.

Last week, the New Zealand Transport Agency confirmed the extra highways work was incomplete.

Only 6km of rumble strips have been installed and 112km of no-passing lines painted. While 750km of Otago roads now had extra tourist direction arrows, work is yet to start in Southland. The agency couldn’t confirm how much had been done by July 1.

Foss declined to be interviewed, but said in an emailed statement severe winter weather was not conducive to installing safety measures.

The work is now expected to be completed by December.

“These safety measures were originally programmed to take two to three years to complete. It’s actually going to take less than one year,” Foss says. 

“We now have more protective safety measures on our southern highways than ever before.”

Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford describes the minister’s explanation as underwhelming.

“It’s simply not good enough for Craig Foss to make promises, with great fanfare, to make the roads safer, and then to not deliver.

“It’s disappointing that the minister was quick to front up to the TV cameras with a big promise but fails to front when asked to explain his broken promise.”

Between 2010 and 2014, a quarter of crashes in the Queenstown Lakes district involved foreign drivers, Ministry of Transport statistics show. In Southland, the rate was 24 per cent. The national average over that period was 5.7 per cent. 

Otago Daily Times