Pothole Paradise

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
21 July, 2023

New Zealand’s roads are in the political headlights, as opposing camps clash over the delicate balance between road safety and road efficiency – think of it as the policy equivalent of Ford vs Holden.

Advocates of greater efficiency point out that potholes have turned our state highway network into a lunar landscape, a phenomenon I had the opportunity to acquaint myself intimately with during a road trip to Gisborne over Matariki.

They argue that a dedicated pothole fund would help get New Zealand back on track – or at least back in the right lane.

However, not everyone is sold on the idea. Even my local Beaurepairs salesman, well-versed in car-maintenance, expressed scepticism about the efficacy of a pothole fund when I handed over my credit card details on Monday morning. He promised to see me soon.

Others have a more philosophical objection to the pothole fund. These safety enthusiasts argue that what Kiwis really need are more expensive speed bumps, cooler ad campaigns and median barriers that tower like modern marvels. After all, nothing says “safety first” like a barrier that doubles as a landmark.

I have a better policy solution to help us combat the safety and efficiency conundrum. Why don’t we let the potholes act as natural speedbumps?

Picture this: a pothole paradise where potholes become unexpected allies in curbing speeding and getting greater mileage out of the Land Transport Fund. Instead of spending a fortune on traditional speed bumps, we can embrace these chassis-rattling pits as a cost-effective alternative.

The beauty of this idea lies in its simplicity. As drivers encounter potholes, their instinctive reaction will be to slow down, creating a natural deterrent to excessive speeding at a fraction of the cost. In turn, that will free up Waka Kotahi to focus on the things that really matter, such as roundabouts adorned with artistic sculptures and pedestrian crossings inspired by our unique flora and fauna.

And just think of the climate benefits! By embracing potholes and making driving a less pleasurable experience, we can incentivise people to explore alternatives like public transport.

Critics might argue that this unconventional approach would damage our vehicles. But with careful placement, we can ensure a smoother ride while encouraging responsible driving habits.

Potholes are not the problem that politicians have made them out to be – they’re the solution to our land transport dilemma.

So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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