Why the Mana Clearways need to go
There is no doubt that the existence of the Mana clearways is a major contributor to the unacceptable number of crashes and other incidents on this stretch of highway. Even with the expected fall in traffic volumes when Transmission Gully opens, this is unlikely to change if the clearways remain open. The remaining heavy vehicles will still have to change lanes twice and cars and vans will continue to weave in and out of the kerbside lanes when they encounter a legally parked vehicle, probably at even greater speeds than at present. The safety issues for pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooters and road users in general will continue, along with the insidious effects of noise, vibration, and fumes. Parking will remain unsafe and hostility between road users will continue.
The dangers associated with the clearways have always been known but never acknowledged by the authorities, except back in 2006 when the operation of the road was first reviewed. The review report prepared by Transit NZ and SKM recommended that parking on Mana Esplanade should be removed altogether because “the potential safety hazard this represents is high compared to the benefit of having the extra parking capacity”. That report was rejected on the basis that PCC, GWRC and residents had not been consulted and the recommendation was shelved because “the Environment Court decision clearly did not envisage the road becoming a four-lane highway”. In practice, however, that is what has happened, and the expected safety hazards have been a reality ever since.
The Paremata Residents Association has had real difficulties in obtaining recent data from Waka Kotahi to enable analysis of the existing safety hazard, even though Waka Kotahi holds the information in its Crash Analysis System. Based on the limited information released to us and our knowledge of unreported crashes over the last 16 years, however, we believe there have probably been about 500 - 600 crashes over the last 5 years between the Paremata and Plimmerton roundabouts. And the 3 major factors identified (“poor observation”, “failure to give way or stop”, and “incorrect lanes or position”) would suggest that the existence of the clearways was most likely a major contributor to those crashes.
Even more telling are figures obtained under the Official Information Act of incidents reported to Police’s Communication Centres. During the almost six years from 1 January 2015 to 30 November 2020 there were approx. 1,200 incidents coded as traffic-related events between Acheron Road and the Paremata roundabout. Particularly prominent were complaints of vehicles weaving in and out of lanes, cutting off other vehicles, tailgating, running red lights and speeding. At least 31 of the reported vehicle collisions involved trucks while there were also another 85 incidents involving trucks where no actual collision occurred (many were trucks cutting off other vehicles or forcing them off the road when changing lanes). Significant numbers of incidents involved parked vehicles and the loss of side mirrors was common. Road rage was also apparent in many incidents.
Of course, the incidents recorded were only those from people who were sufficiently upset, prepared and competent to report them, and represent just a tiny fraction of the actual incidents that occurred during that period.
Based on the data available for analysis, it would be irresponsible for a government agency like Waka Kotahi (whose predecessors made a commitment to the local community to remove the clearways in conjunction with the opening of Transmission Gully) or a local authority like PCC (which is supposed to be looking after the interests of its communities) to allow such a situation to continue once Transmission Gully opens.
Paremata Residents Association – 25 March 2022