NZTA rules out Mandarin traffic signs in Canterbury's Mackenzie District

An idea raised at an Environment Canterbury meeting last week to have both English and Mandarin road signs across the South Island's Mackenzie District has been ruled out by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).

At Thursday's meeting, Upper Waitaki water zone committee chairman Simon Cameron said the influx of tourists was causing problems on the district's roads, Stuff reports.

The Mackenzie District features tourist attractions such as Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, which had nearly one million visitors last year.

Last month, three people were killed when two vehicles collided head-on on a gravel road west of Tekapo. A Chinese tourist has pleaded guilty to three counts of careless driving causing death and four of careless driving causing injury in connection to the crash.

In a statement to Newshub, NZTA regional relationships director Jim Harland said the placement and design of signage is controlled by the Land Transport Rule, which does not allow the use of Mandarin on signage.

"The reason signage is controlled this way is that roadside signs can themselves become distractions, so they need to be designed and placed according to engineering-based principles.

"Adding additional words in multiple languages to our signage could have a negative impact as it may be a distraction for drivers, especially those that do not understand the language.

"In New Zealand we use standard road signs and symbols in most instances, which aids recognition for visiting drivers with limited English language skills, but also for all drivers.

"Well-designed symbolic signs convey more precise information and are much more readily understood than text signs."

He said drivers understand the message and know what to do without the need for supplementary text.

"Such signs require more concentration and interpretation by drivers attempting to reconcile the symbol and the text.

"That makes them a distraction and they are less effective than a well-designed symbolic or text only sign."

The Government is "working hard" to reduce the number of crashes on New Zealand roads, Harland, who is also the chair of the Visiting Drivers Project governance group, said.

"A range of organisations including central and local government, the tourism and rental vehicle sectors, and others, are working on the Visiting Drivers Project to ensure all visitors have a safe and enjoyable holiday."

According to Safer Journeys, the purpose of the project is to improve road safety for visiting drivers, while maintaining New Zealand's reputation as an "attractive and safe tourist destination".

Steve Hanrahan, of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, told Newshub in December giving drivers the right driving advice is very important.

"[They should know] that they don't have to travel too far on particular days - understand  what's different about driving in New Zealand than what it is at home."


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