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‘They’ve got it wrong’

Transport safety advocate Aaron Slight. PHOTO/FILE

A Wairarapa transport safety advocate says the New Zealand Transport Agency has not listened to the community accurately and made the wrong decision in giving the go-ahead to a package of safety improvements for State Highway 2.

Transport Minister Michael Wood announced a $24.8 million safety improvements package last week that included flexible safety barriers, pedestrian crossings, and three new roundabouts for SH2 between Masterton and Featherston.

Wood said at the time of the announcement that the decision to give the safety package the green light came after the NZTA received “very positive feedback” from the community in the Wairarapa State Highway 2 speed review consultation.

“Broadly speaking, my understanding is that people were very supportive of this project and this work going ahead.”

But former professional motorcycle racer and driving mentor Aaron Slight said that is not the case.

Slight said NZTA have bypassed the feedback submitted in giving the whole project the go-ahead.

“They’ve got it wrong,” Slight said about the submissions.

“Everyone’s running around patting themselves on the back for the decisions they’ve made without listening to the locals. All you need to do is go and check out the submissions that are online and you’ll see for yourself that’s not what the locals wanted.

“They say they want us to put a submission in, but nobody listens.

“They’ve made a decision that’s supposed to be based on community submissions, but many of the submissions are stating the opposite. What’s the point of doing submissions if they’re not going to listen.”

The Times-Age requested an overview of the 1000-plus submissions analysed by the NZTA, but they had not responded at the time of print.

Slight said he was a fan of the roundabouts being mounted but said only two out of the three were necessary. He said the East Taratahi Rd roundabout would only service residents rather than the people using SH2.

“I don’t agree with three roundabouts,” he said.

“If you look at the submissions [online], 28 are against [the East Taratahi Rd roundabout] and the other 14 are residents.”

Although Slight understands feedback wasn’t just given online – other submissions were received by email and post – he’s confident many people would back his view.

“Again, just open the submissions online,” he said.

“I’m supported by them [online] all. But in saying that, no one I’ve personally talked to has disagreed with me either, and I’ve spoken to many people about this.”

Slight said driver training was the key to making roads safer, which is why he was particularly “riled up” about the flexible median barriers NZTA would place in key locations on SH2.

Flexible median barriers are used to prevent head-on crashes.

He couldn’t understand the justification for installing median barriers when no data backs up their need.

In Wairarapa in the past 10 years, there have only been four deaths on SH2 between Masterton and Featherston, but none have come from head-on collisions.

“It’s more about driver safety,” he said.

“The most fatalities and serious injury are from hitting fences. The second most is hitting poles. You don’t find a power pole in the middle of the road.

“No accident happens without the driver losing control. And the driver loses control because they’re distracted. Distraction is the main thing. It’s about people looking out for themselves, not lowering speed limits. If you’re distracted, you’re going to crash.”

Although NZTA is still to give their final decision on the speed change, which would have the speed limit drop from 100kmh to 80kmh between Masterton and Featherston, given the green light, Slight said it would happen either way, whether or not negative submissions outweighed the positive.

“It’s going to go ahead,” he said on the speed review decision.

“You can’t come up with a budget of $24.8 million and say that you are reviewing everything because you’ve already budgeted for what you’re doing, so it’s going to go ahead.

“What’s the point of doing submissions? We need someone to listen.”

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