7 Jun 2016

High road toll not police's fault, minister says

6:46 pm on 7 June 2016

Government ministers are rejecting claims that police under-funding has lead to the worst Queen's Birthday road toll in 27 years.

Risky rural roads are being blamed for New Zealand having a worse road toll rate than Australia's.

Photo: 123RF

Police have described the long weekend's road toll - the worst Queen's Birthday period since 1989 - as horrific.

Eleven people died; last year, the toll was five.

Police Minister Judith Collins said the Labour Party was wrong to blame the high toll on under-funding and fewer police officers on the road.

Judith Collins being appointed as a Minister again 14.12.15.

Police Minister Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Police had a high presence on the roads at the weekend but people still drove in unsafe conditions, sped and talked on their mobile phones, Ms Collins said.

People just needed to learn to follow the rules, she said.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said too often alcohol, drugs and speed were factors in fatal road accidents.

There would be 11 funerals this coming week and his heart went out to the families, he said.

Mr Foss had asked officials to see whether there were any common factors, that could be used to guide a future government response.

"Sadly, so much of our road toll is a combination of too much drink, drugs, far too excessive speed, fleeing from police, no seatbelts, no helmets.

"So we'll see if there's any common denominators here over the weekend."

Craig Foss

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said he was devastated every time he was notified another person had died on the roads. Photo: RNZ

He "felt a lot of pain" as reports of these incidents came in to him over the weekend.

Mr Foss said, for the victims and their close family members, statistics didn't matter.

"[They've] lost a loved one, that's all that counts right now, so let's give those people time to grieve.

"Statistically, yes at the end of the day they're all just numbers, the road toll is just a number but last year's road toll was 321 family members - that's where it really means a lot to me."