National’s Northland candidate, Grant McCallum, launched the pothole campaign because “Northlanders are getting sick of the conditions of the roads”.
The National Party has launched yet another pothole campaign to highlight the scourge on New Zealand roads that’s damaging vehicles and causing havoc for motorists.
But while the others have been nationwide petitions and photo-sharing competitions, the latest is specific to Northland roads and state highways, “to tell Labour to upgrade our roads and fix the potholes”.
National’s Northland candidate, Grant McCallum, launched the campaign on July 6 at the Mangakahia sports centre while on the road attending public meetings with National’s agriculture and trade spokesman, Todd McClay.
He also took the petition to Maungatūroto and Waipū and is promoting it on his Facebook page.
The petition, which already has “a couple of pages” of signatures, is in response to an Advocate article about a mother telling her daughter to fly north because the potholes are so bad. It highlighted the scale of the problem in the region, with 26,350 potholes reported to Waka Kotahi during the past 18 months.
“It’s also in response to the fact Northlanders are getting sick of the conditions of the roads, and the damage to their vehicles caused by potholes and poor maintenance,” McCallum said.
“It’s getting ridiculous, and it’s time we gave Northlanders the opportunity to send a message to the Government that our roads aren’t good enough. It’s unacceptable.”
McCallum said Labour had decreased the road maintenance budget “by millions”, and “now we are paying the price”.
In this year’s budget, funding for state highway maintenance decreased by $164 million, while local road maintenance had decreased by “a massive” $314m, he said.
McCallum pointed out recent cases reported by the Advocate including Whangārei mum Danielle Gaudin whose car was so badly damaged after it hit a series of potholes on SH1 near Kerikeri, one of the airbags was deployed and the vehicle is now unroadworthy.
And Hihi resident Lynley Stephens told her Auckland-based daughter Daisy to fly to the Far North for future visits rather than drive, after a pothole blew out her tyre on SH10.
A spokesman for Transport Minister David Parker’s office said McCallum’s statements that the Government had decreased the road maintenance budget were “untrue”.
“The Government has consistently spent more than the previous National government on local road maintenance.
“National froze funding on road maintenance to fund roads of national significance.
“In the Northland region, this government’s funding for state highway maintenance in Northland has either been equal to the National government’s funding, or significantly higher.”
The spokesman said 2022 had been a “particularly challenging winter with unseasonal intense winter rain accompanied by frequent snowfall events”.
Covid-19 also had “a significant impact on the maintenance programme”, he said.
“The extreme weather in February seriously curtailed Waka Kotahi’s state highway maintenance season for 2022-23 for much of the North Island.
“It had planned to target 2450 lane kilometres as part of the state highway summer maintenance season, the largest-ever single-season programme on the state highway network.”
However, McCallum said the evidence spoke for itself.
“Look at the results and the numbers [of potholes]. The amount of spending is reducing. Look at the outcomes.”
McCallum said the campaign was specific to Northland and was separate from one launched by National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown in October.
Brown started a Pothole of the Week campaign asking motorists to post photos of potholes in their community so that Transport Minister Michael Wood “hears the frustrations of Kiwi motorists loud and clear”.
Brown said over the course of the campaign “hundreds of pictures of potholes and road maintenance concerns” were received from throughout the country.
The campaign also included a petition signed by over 1500 people, he said.
That followed National’s Pothole of the Year competition, which was won by “Ken”, from Helensville, and a photo of himself catching a fish in a giant pothole.
Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering roading, health, business and animal welfare issues.