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Motorists should expect delays travelling to holiday hotspots this summer

Dec 21, 2020

Motorists should expect delays travelling to holiday hotspots with another big year of summer roadworks planned.

More than 2000 workers will be sweating it out across about 2500 sites nationwide.

Last year's maintenance programme was the largest ever, with 10 percent of the roading network renewed or repaired.

This year it is 8.5 percent - that is nearly 2000km of refreshed roads - the equivalent of repaving a two-lane road from Picton to Bluff.

Workers will down tools from 23 December until 5 January but some speed restrictions will remain at major site works.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Systems Manager Mark Owen predicted even heavier traffic than usual with New Zealanders stuck holidaying at home.

"I think we'll find that a lot more people will be travelling around.

"Obviously we haven't got the overseas tourists, but a lot of New Zealanders [are] pretty adventurous, they'll want to get out this summer and enjoy the beautiful weather and go and visit places that they haven't maybe been before.

"So we're expecting there will be a lot of movement over the next month or so as people travel around New Zealand."

Large works are planned for Northland, the lower half of the South Island and Bay of Plenty, but Waikato is getting the lion's share with 20 percent of the total.

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson said the region was also expecting huge amounts of traffic.

He said Raglan - with a permanent population of 3500 - was expecting 170,000 visitors next month.

"I would suggest the Coromandel is probably going to be equally as endowed with a lot of people travelling that normally may travel overseas."

Sanson said people travelling to Coromandel should add an extra hour and a half - or more - to their journey time.

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith says Northlanders may be frustrated by roadworks but will also be pleased they're going ahead Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said Northland's roads were the worst in the country and fixing them was its residents' top priority.

He said it made the economic speedbump of roadwork delays ultimately worth it.

"The people of Northland, seeing road cones, while they may be frustrated and delayed they're also going, 'yeah, we need these roads to be at the same standard as everyone else's roads'.

"So they're happy to take the medicine of the frustrating time with the road cones."

The $127 million being spent on repairs this year maxes out Waka Kotahi's maintenance budget.

But new Transport Minister Michael Wood said the government's substantially boosted the money available - with $2.4bn over three years up from $1.6bn under the previous government.

"That's about 50 percent lift, so we've got a lot of extra capacity there to be dealing with maintenance.

"But we are dealing with a backlog ... and Waka Kotahi [is] moving as quickly as [it] can to meet that."

Wood said road users should heed the lessons from the team of five million during Covid and be kind to each other and keep each other safe.

"The saddest part of my week every week as Minister of Transport is, in my weekend bag, I get a readout of the New Zealanders who have lost their lives on the road in the week that's gone by."

Owen said ultimately the maintenance made the roads safer.

He had a plea for drivers.

"Please just be patient. Slow down if you're going through roadwork sites - we've had complaints about drivers speeding through - and this just creates all sorts of problems, it puts workers at risk [and] can affect the quality of the final surface.

"These workers... are working hard and they want to go home safely at the end of the day."

The agency suggested motorists check out its interactive holiday journeys map to avoid the worst congestion.

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