‘Disgraceful’ roads to blame – not tourist drivers

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Self-drive holidays promoted to tourists aren’t to blame for tragic road accidents, Queenstown’s tourism boss says.

Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd believes “international drivers are largely experienced and capable”, despite a series of crashes heading into the busy summer season.

Instead, it’s the roads that are “completely inadequate”.

“Years of under-investment has left some sections of SH94 and SH6 in a disgraceful state, they’re frankly an embarrassment,” he says.

Budd says driving’s the only way for travellers to get around parts of the country.

David Kettle, director of self-drive tour promoter New Zealand Fine Touring Group, says there’s “no need whatsoever” to review how New Zealand businesses offer self-drive holidays.

He says roads need “better future planning”.

None of the company’s itineraries sees customers driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound along SH6. But Kettle says some overseas agents promote itineraries which include self-driving there and back in one day, which “can be a challenge”.

Between 2012-2016, there were 270 fatal crashes per year on average nationally, with 19 per year on average involving overseas drivers.

NZ Transport Agency regional boss Jim Harland says despite a rise of about 45 per cent in visitors over the last 10 years, the number of fatal crashes involving overseas drivers is “reasonably consistent”.

NZTA’s Visiting Drivers Project delivers initiatives focused on road safety during all stages of a visitor’s holiday. Harland believes self-drive promoters “do enough” to give customers a safe experience.

Southern Discoveries boss Tim Hunter says the crashes “highlight the pressing need to ensure international drivers have adequate open road driving experience”.

Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult says it’s “not only a foreign driver issue”, and all motorists need to be patient and careful this summer.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz