$20m to fix killer highways
Families of those killed on notorious Gisborne state highways are hopeful a $20 million safety boost will save lives.
Rumble strips, roadside safety barriers in high-risk areas, and wider road shoulders are ‘‘lowercost’’ safety measures set to be installed over the summer period, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter announced yesterday.
The safety upgrades are being welcomed by the families of Erica Jones, 26, and Freedom Morunga, 21 – both of whom died on Gisborne’s highways last year.
But concerns the lower-cost measures are just a ‘‘Band-aid’’ solution are shared by a road safety expert.
Jones was the sole occupant of a car travelling on State Highway 35, north of Gisborne, when it collided with a logging truck on the morning of November 10.
Family spokesman and cousin Matai Rangi Smith said the safety improvements were needed for the road, which was well known in the district for being treacherous.
‘‘Whatever the Government is planning to do will be welcome with open arms, because since Erica’s crash I know that recently we’ve had a few more instances of death . . . hopefully, it’s not just a Band-aid.
‘‘There are no favourable comments about what happens on that State Highway 35 anymore, everyone, whenever you think of that now, you think of all of these deaths that are constantly happening there.’’
Median barriers – an expensive safety measure that can
sharply reduce the number of head-on collisions – would be ‘‘absolutely useful’’ if installed.
Sonny Morunga’s daughter, Freedom, died in a head-on collision with a truck on State Highway 2, between Gisborne and Wairoa, in June.
Morunga wondered how effective rumble strips would be, and whether his daughter would have been here for Christmas if they had been installed.
He frequently drove between Gisborne and Wairoa and had seen his share of near-misses. Any safety improvement to the road was a good thing, he said.
Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website Dog And Lemon, said the measures were ‘‘plain Kiwi common-sense’’ but he was disappointed that median barriers hadn’t been included in the current upgrades.
‘‘New Zealand roads are like a staircase without a handrail, you make a mistake, you’re going to get hurt.
‘‘Auckland Harbour Bridge used to have one serious accident a week. By simply installing median barriers, the accidents stopped overnight.
‘‘The Gisborne roading improvements work on the same principle but they won’t be so effective.’’
In a statement, Genter said the funding was targeting rural roads that had risks including sharp corners and narrow stretches.
Rural highways to be improved with the fund include SH35, from Tolaga Bay to Gisborne, and SH2 covering Matawai to Gisborne, south to Wairoa and State Highway 5 to Te Haroto. Highways in Manawatu-Whanganui and the West Coast will also be included.
The safety upgrades were simple and could be put in place quickly over summer, she said.