Road safety expert blames Aotearoa's 'massive' pothole issue on lack of preventive maintenance

Aotearoa might be a dream location, but our roads can be a nightmare because we've got a "massive" pothole issue. 

In 2022 a record number of complaints from Kiwis with damaged vehicles were received by Waka Kotahi, and people have had a gutsfull. 

"The repairs are at times worse than what they're repairing!" said Leigh. 

"New Zealand roads are poorly constructed. It's a country-wide problem," Kat said. 

"It's because there's a bunch of f***ing useless f***wits running the country," said Todd. 

That sentiment hasn't escaped the National Party, which has turned the problem into an election issue with its 'Fix the Potholes' campaign.

Northland has got it especially rough. From 2018 to 2022, over 19,000 potholes were patched up, and in the last 18 months, 26,000 potholes were reported.

Some Kiwis claim that since Aotearoa stopped producing road filler locally in 2021, the problem has only worsened. 

But Waka Kotahi says the imported bitumen meets national standards and blames climate change and heavy rain.  

"We're seeing these events occur more frequently now due to climate change. After a very wet winter in 2022, Northland recorded its wettest summer on record," said Waka Kotahi's regional manager of maintenance and operations Jacqui Hori-Hoult.

"The continued extraordinary wet weather has proven to be a recipe for pothole formation in various areas around Northland and also across Aotearoa." 

Road safety campaigner Geoff Upson recently showed one large pothole he's reported three times. 

Hori-Hoult said each time Waka Kotahi are advised of each issue, its maintenance contractors 

are dispatched to carry out repairs.

"Noting that wet weather also keeps crews busy with other priority incidents including slips, fallen trees, flooding and associated road closures and traffic management."

So how does Aotearoa smooth things over? 

AA's road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen told The Project Aotearoa has a "massive" pothole problem and it's been getting worse for more than a decade. 

"We haven't been investing enough into road maintenance that we should've been. And we're really seeing the chickens come home to roost on that a little bit," Thomsen said. 

Thomsen said he's constantly hearing from Kiwis that the "roads have never been this bad before". 

He said the reality is there will always be potholes, but Aotearoa could definitely have a whole lot less. 

"It's the case of successive Governments over a prolonged [period] who have not invested as much as we should've been into road maintenance."

Thomsen said Aotearoa is about $1.2 billion short of what should be being spent on our roading maintenance.

He said roads are being made to a "decent standard" and the right materials are being used, but said we are not keeping on top of preventative maintenance.

Thomsen has seen cases where Kiwis have gone out of their way to fill in potholes but told The Project it's not a good idea.

"In terms of actual quality workmanship on the roads I'm afraid I would say 'no leave it to the professionals'," he said.

"Don't try and fix them yourselves guys."

Watch the video above for more.