Election 2023: National's $500 million promise to establish 'pothole repair fund' unveiled

The National Party says it will allocate $500 million to a "pothole repair fund" to address the "shocking state" of New Zealand's transport network if elected in October.

National transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said the funds would cover "potholes and other damage to both local roads and state highways", with $500m over three years being allocated to regional authorities and Waka Kotahi (NZTA).

New Zealand's pothole crisis has been a hot topic in recent months. Last year, NZTA received a record number of complaints about damaged vehicles caused by potholes. 

"In 2022, over 54,000 potholes needed repair on state highways around New Zealand, the highest number in 10 years," Brown said. "In Auckland alone, there is a backlog of 1000 kilometres of needed road repairs, with Auckland Transport estimating it will take up to 10 years to clear.

"Potholes are a safety hazard and have been causing significant damage and disruption to freight and motorists all over the country."

Brown said in a statement his party would meet the costs of the pothole repair fund by "re-prioritising spending within the National Land Transport Programme, including a reduction in expenditure on activities which unnecessarily slow traffic down such as blanket speed limit reductions and excessive speed bump installations, or the failed Road to Zero advertising campaign, towards investment in safer roads which are properly maintained".

"Rather than wasting money on slowing people down, giant red zeros or expensive transport projects nobody wants, like the $30 billion Auckland light rail project, National will focus on fixing and enhancing our roading network to ensure people and freight can move around the country safely and efficiently."

National would also deliver new rules for state highway pothole repairs, including slashing the usual response time from two days to a day, Brown said. 

It would also introduce "a requirement for NZTA to undertake renewal and rehabilitation work on at least 2 percent of the roading network each year, more than double the current rate", he said. 

In Budget 2023, the Labour Government said it would spend millions on making New Zealand's transport network "more resilient to weather events and climate-friendly" - coughing up $120 million for electric vehicle chargers and a $279 million State Highway package to focus on focus on "slip prevention, flood mitigation and managing risk of sea level rise", then-Transport Minister Michael Wood said.

The state highway package would include "work on projects like slope stabilisation at various SH1 locations in Northland such as Long Hill, Saunders Rd and Kaiwaka, flood mitigation on the Auckland motorway network, and managing the risk of coastal inundation on SH6 at the top of the South Island", the Government said.