Hashtags don’t save lives


On Wednesday 27 June 2018 our Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter sent the above tweet. She quite rightly pointed out to those who didn?t already realise (perhaps due to them being without a soul), that having five people die in a traffic crash is indeed tragic. Thankfully, we all now know that her heart goes out to the families and that it is time to make our roads safer, presumably via the use of a hashtag, #visionzero.

I think she has, perhaps, forgotten that she is actually the minister for transport and can, presumably, make a difference to our road toll and all the associated heartache. It is all very well stating the obvious or dropping hashtags, but when you are the one in charge, perhaps just virtue signalling your sorrow isn?t enough. Perhaps, you could use your power to actually do something?

At least one of those commenting saw her discourse for what it was by replying with the comment: Quote.

Can you please let them at least get the bodies out of the cars before you use them for political mileage? Your comments are a new LOW, even for the slimy Green Party. End of quote.

Well said, that man.

Unfortunately, our esteemed minister has also seen fit, in the recent past, to use her Twitter account to criticise and even make fun of people?s genuine concern regarding the state of our roads, safety and congestion. (I thought the left said it was bad to use Twitter to make dumb statements!)

On 23 February, in reply to a Judith Collins tweet about voters’ concerns regarding major congestion heading north on state highway one towards Wellsford, Ms Genter dropped this wee gem: Quote:

It’s Saturday. That’s why it’s called the “holiday highway”. We can help more people and business by spending the transport budget on projects that help them get to work and school everyday. Not just focusing on a few weekend bach trips. End of quote.


What had sparked this bout of envy politics was the fact that people had been complaining that our flash new government had just decided to can the extension of the motorway system from Warkworth to Wellsford (actually, Te Hana), a motorway project that would quite clearly put paid to such congestion.

For someone in a position of power to be glibly downplaying the massive safety and economic benefits of this new road got me thinking. Is this roadway only used by Auckland bach owners on the weekends? Just how many vehicles use this road, where do they come from, and just how many crashes are we likely to avoid if this government were to carry on with the project, as approved by the previous National government as a road of national significance?

As I am one of those aforementioned bach owners, I use this road reasonably regularly. I also belong to a couple of local Facebook pages up there so am kept regularly informed about the latest blockages, fatal crashes etc. It is no secret that in the past six months or so there has been what appears to be a major upsurge in serious crashes on the stretch of road between Puhoi and Whangarei. Lately it seems that every couple of weeks there is another one.

Indeed, when I was a member of the constabulary, I was part of the Serious Crash Unit and, as a part of my job, I attended dozens of fatal crashes on these roads. I can still remember every damn one. The number of major prangs that I have attended up there would be in the hundreds.

So, a little research was in order.

In the past all traffic heading north pretty much had to go through Orewa, Warkworth, Wellsford etc. In 1999 the first section of the Albany to Puhoi realignment was opened from Greville Rd to Silverdale, and an expressway to the back of Orewa was opened at the same time. This resulted in a massive reduction in fatal crashes by getting people off East Coast Rd and the Albany Highway on to a modern, safe motorway.

The second section of the realignment from Orewa to Puhoi was opened in December 2009 as a toll road, having been completed as a public-private partnership. This immediately saw a reduction of over 10,000 vehicles per day from the portion of Hibiscus Coast Road from Orewa to Puhoi, over 10% of those vehicles being heavy motor vehicles.

There is a very interesting website that has all the reported crashes from 2000 to 2017 plotted on a map of New Zealand. If you drill down you can see where every crash has happened, what year it was and the seriousness. (You might be surprised at what has happened in your street.)

By studying this data I found out that our motorways are incredibly effective in reducing vehicular harm. For instance, on the portion of the Hibiscus Coast Highway between Orewa and the intersection with state highway one near the Johnstone?s Hill tunnels, there have been six fatal and 17 serious crashes in the 2000?2017 timeframe. Despite carrying around 76% of the traffic, the second section of the realignment between Silverdale and the same spot near Puhoi had zero fatal crashes and only two serious ones.

Clearly, there is an enormous benefit to having lovely smooth well-lit multi-laned roads with decent median barriers down the middle!

Below is a picture from the Crash Analysis System website of that portion of our fair land showing the differences in reported crashes. Each dot represents at least one crash at that location. Black is fatal, red is serious, blue is minor injury and yellow is non-injury. As you can clearly see by the lack of dots on the section of state highway one compared with the wiggly Hibiscus Coast Highway, one of these roads is far safer than the other.


The next stage of the motorway extension is well underway. This is from Puhoi to Warkworth. This was accepted as a road of national significance by the last government and is due to be completed around 2020.

The section of state highway one that this road will replace has been the scene of far too many tragedies. Twenty-four fatal crashes and 61 serious crashes have blighted this part of the road during the above time frame. Clearly, there will be a huge reduction in harm as a result of this new road being opened. Well done National ? thank you for putting our safety ahead of the dollars.

This brings us to the rest of what Ms Genter so condescendingly calls the Holiday Highway. The portion of state highway one between Warkworth and Te Hana was due to go ahead as the next phase of this important road link.

On this portion of state highway one, between 2000 and 2017, there have been no less than 42 fatal crashes and 85 serious ones, not including the five or six so far this year. (That?s just crashes, remember, not dead or injured people.) Just consider how much heartache has been foisted upon families during this time. How many parents have had to bury their kids? How many kids no longer have their grandparents? How many tourists never made it home?

Genter has said that the ?cost/benefit ratio? of the road doesn?t stack up. Apparently, way back when this was worked out by some Aussie number crunchers in 2009,? it was determined that NZ Inc would only get back $40 for every $100 spent! She?s very sad about all the dead people but unless the road can pay its way, forget about any improvements.

Is this how all decisions around road safety are going to be made? Unless we can get a decent return on our money, we don?t care how many die? Are we quite happy for a certain portion of the proletariat to cark it as long as it doesn?t cost us more than we put in?

How dare you Genter? When you were in opposition you were particularly vociferous in your opinion that every road death lay at the feet of the National government. Well, they did plenty of things wrong when it comes to road safety and policing, but at least they had our wellbeing at heart.

Genter, while in opposition, once stated: Quote.

When Aucklanders are being told there?s no money for urgent rail projects it’s incredibly frustrating to watch Simon Bridges sink almost $2 billion into an ineffective motorway expansion.?End of quote.

Well, I for one can see from the numbers above that this was a particularly effective motorway expansion. What does Ms Genter care about? More trams and cycle lanes that no-one will use, from what I can see. Actually, ‘Heartless’ is a fitting moniker for her, or perhaps ‘Bleeding Heart’ might be better, considering all the virtue signalling that she does.

The woman is a disgrace, but I guess this is what we get when the most relevant qualification that our minister for transport has is a degree in efficient parking.