Tourism industry should fund road safety improvements, says safety campaigner

The government should levy the tourism industry to pay for urgent upgrades to unsafe rural roads used by tourists, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says rural roads such as Kenepuru Rd in the Marlborough Sounds are “an accident waiting to happen”.

“Every day there are near misses on Kenepuru Road. Last Christmas I nearly had a head-on collision with a campervan on the wrong side of Kenepuru Road.”

“These are narrow, winding roads with blind corners, no median barrier and no roadside fencing. A simple mistake can be a fatal one.”

Shawn Cameron Bartlett, 31, died on the road after rolling his truck near Portage on June 1.

Matthew-Wilson says the tourism industry is placing an intolerable burden on many small rural councils, who have to maintain the roads in their districts, even though these districts may gain little from the thousands of tourist vehicles.

“Kenepuru Road is effectively a tarsealed gravel road. The Marlborough District Council found the money to tarseal it, but they lack the funds to turn it into a road that is wide enough for tourists to use safely.“

“Kenepuru Road is just one of hundreds of roads maintained by small rural councils, and many of these roads need urgent upgrades to deal with the tsunami of tourist vehicles. Many tourist drivers lack the skills and knowledge to drive safely on these roads, so, wherever possible, the roads themselves need to be given urgent safety upgrades. The government and the tourism industry need to stump up the funds for this, instead of placing further burdens on small rural ratepayers.”

Matthew-Wilson says the government needs to look at a special category for funding urgent upgrades where the road is:

•       used heavily by international tourism traffic, and

•       does not meet acceptable standards for two-way traffic, and

•       the road structure is unsuitable for campervans.

Matthew-Wilson is highly critical of the government’s current spending priorities.

“How come the government can find $1.4 billion to build the highly dubious Auckland East-West road,  but it can’t find the money to make Kenepuru Road safe?”