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Published: 2008-08-06 00:00:00

A new focus on road safety announced by the Government will help reduce the number of crash deaths in the Waikato, which had the highest regional road toll in the country last year, says Regional Transport Committee chairman Norm Barker.

The Government yesterday unveiled its first ever Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport, and unveiled a new 40-year New Zealand Transport Strategy (NZTS).

Included in the NZTS was a target of reducing road deaths to no more than 200 a year by 2040.

"We had 90 road deaths in the wider Waikato region last year," said Cr Barker, from Environment Waikato.

"We’re determined to tackle the issues contributing to this figure with the current development of a new regional road safety strategy. So we welcome the Government’s commitment to an ambitious target for reducing fatalities nationwide."

Cr Barker said the GPS recognized that freight volumes were set to more than double by 2040. "Much of this, in the normal course of events, would pass through the Waikato. With trucks featuring heavily in our fatal road crashes, I welcome the GPS’s aim of having rail and shipping take up an increasing share of this growing freight burden. This will help save lives locally."

The increase in spending on state highway construction projects from $792 million a year in 2008 to $900 million by 2018 was another positive feature of the Government announcements, Cr Barker said.

"Better state highways in the Waikato will, again, help save lives and also free up the movement of people and freight through the region. That’s got to be good for the regional economy and make it easier for people to get about generally."

He also saw the region benefiting from a strong Government commitment to public transport, with the GPS suggesting state funding for this would double in the next decade.

"We’ve had great success, particularly in Hamilton, getting people to use the buses more. We’re aware of the need to keep cost increases down, but we’d also like to see our bus and other passenger transport networks in the Waikato improve over time as we can afford it. The GPS sign of more Government funding for this is very welcome.

"Increased passenger transport services would give people more options for getting about, reduce pressure on the road network and help minimise carbon emissions."