The News North Canterbury - Intersection Survey

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) is conducting a major survey on State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch to identify areas of improvement.

As MP of the fourth-largest general electorate in New Zealand, I spend a considerable amount of time travelling up and down this section of road.

It's an undeniably scenic piece of highway, but it comes with its own unique challenges and complicating factors; I absolutely welcome any discussion that focuses on improving this vital link in our transport network.

One of the main difficulties on the route is, of course, the notorious and often frustrating one-way Hurunui Bridge, the last remaining one-way bridge on State Highway 1.

I have seen as many as 30 cars, trucks and campervans backed up at the bridge, waiting to cross.

There are also precious few passing lanes on the highway throughout the Kaikoura electorate and those that do exist are generally too short to allow the streams of traffic to separate adequately.

Traffic coming to and from the Picton ferries creates groups of vehicles travelling close together, including large numbers of trucks and campervans.

I'm sure most of us who use the road have seen examples of dangerous passing manoeuvres within these long streams.

The NZTA's multi-stage investigation of SH1 began at the end of last year and a strategic case will be publicly released later this year, at which point there will be opportunity for public feedback.

My hope is that this will lead to more and longer passing lanes, improved safety features at accident blackspots and other solutions to deal with the road's unique challenges.

Another issue to look at is how vulnerable areas of SH1 could be in a major earthquake.

A recent news article about the after- effects of a major earthquake generated by the Alpine Fault highlighted that many of our main highways could be closed for up to six months.

It would be sensible to assume that areas of North Canterbury and in particularly Kaikoura, surrounded on both sides by sections of highway and railway line prone to slips in adverse weather events, could be affected in this way.

We have, of course, learned a lot from the Christchurch earthquakes and legislation is now before Parliament aimed at helping communities better recover from small to medium scale emergencies.

Last week's Budget also provided extra funding for Civil Defence to ensure we are better placed to respond to and manage the risks posed by a range of natural hazards and other disasters.

Ensuring that our piece of State Highway 1 is in the best state it can be is essential, not only in preparation for natural disasters, but for a safer journey every day.