Major Road to Zero reports delayed as wait for new Government continues

One of the reports was previously expected to be released in July.
One of the reports was previously expected to be released in July. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The Ministry of Transport has delayed the release of two major documents on its Road to Zero strategy to allow the incoming Government to have oversight and make decisions before they become public.

One of these documents, the annual monitoring report that provides an update on whether the strategy is on track to reach its goals, was earlier expected for release in July, prior to the election campaign beginning.

Newshub has asked several times since July about the whereabouts of the report. The ministry initially said it was tracking to be released by the end of July. 

Then Newshub was told it was expected to be released sometime in August. In September, it was further delayed with no expected release date provided.

This week, the ministry told Newshub while the monitoring report is a "factual document outlining progress on road safety, we want to give the incoming Minister of Transport an opportunity to review it prior to its publication".

Asked why it wasn't released back in July, a spokesperson said the report had taken longer to prepare than last year's "due to challenges in compiling all of the data across agencies and delays with the design of the document, meaning we didn't get it to the Transport Minister's office for their information until late August 2023".

"Subsequently, the report wasn't released during the pre-election period."

A monitoring report is meant to be released annually to update the public on the Road to Zero strategy, which has the aim of a "New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes". 

The strategy outlines multiple measures agencies are taking to bring deaths and serious injuries down, such as through improving infrastructure, vehicle safety and driver behaviour. 

It also has a shorter-term target of reducing road user death and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030.

However, the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi earlier this year admitted while that remained the goal, the programme hadn't been implemented at the necessary scale or pace. Several actions would be taken in 2023 to make progress on reaching the target, the agency said.

The road toll to October 31, 2023, stood at 281, down from 303 at this point last year, but above the toll to this date in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

While the monitoring report hasn't been released, the ministry has been proactively releasing quarterly progress reports. The latest, which is to the end of March, said while a significant amount of work had been completed, "we remain behind on key [deaths and serious injuries]-contributing work programmes". 

The second document that has also been delayed is the new three-year Action Plan for 2023-2025.

The Ministry of Transport's Annual Report released publicly last week said the plan "was published in August 2023".

But the ministry spokesperson told Newshub it had also been delayed. 

"The Road to Zero Action Plan is a government-approved document. The incoming Minister will need to take decisions and will likely require Cabinet approval prior to its publication."

According to the annual report, the action plan prioritises initiatives that would "achieve the biggest reductions in the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads". 

"This includes road infrastructure improvements, safe speeds and enforcement. A number of new actions will be implemented including improving the effectiveness of the alcohol interlock sentence and adopting a standard for motorcycle personal protective equipment."

National, which will be the lead party in the next Government, said prior to the election reviewing the Road to Zero targets could be considered. 

National has also committed to reversing recent speed limit reductions as part of its Accelerate NZ policy. 

"These reductions were part of Labour's expensive 'Road to Zero' campaign, which has not worked," the policy document said.

In July, the Ministry of Transport provided an update to Transport Minister David Parker on the Road to Zero strategy, saying while progress had been slowed by COVID-19, "momentum is now building across the programme" and the 40 percent reduction target was "realistic and achievable". 

It contained a May document highlighting recent actions taken, including changes to how median barrier projects are managed, reviewing speed limit settings considering the Government's decision this year to only make changes to the 1 percent most dangerous state highways, introducing new safety camera technology and working with police.

Road to Zero was its own activity class under the previous Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport. But a draft of the new GPS released in August proposed renaming it to just 'safety'.