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NZTA Pays Compensation For 5 Claims Over Bad Roads Damaging Vehicles In A Year

National Party's Simeon Brown and leader Christopher Luxon pictured next to potholes in Auckland while on the campaign trail on 16 July, 2023. Photo: RNZ / Delphine Herbert

Just a handful of 145 motorists who lodged complaints over potholes were compensated for damage last year.

The Transport Agency paid out $2800 on five claims for bad roads damaging vehicles, including potholes, in 2022-23.

Those five were among 746 claims for compensation (mostly for vehicle damage but also property damage), NZTA's annual review showed.

The agency said it was to blame only if "we haven't taken reasonable care".

The government recently ringfenced $500 million in a new State Highway Pothole Prevention and Local Road Pothole Prevention fund.

It also said it would halve the standard response time for repairs from 48 to 24 hours, saying more than 62,000 potholes needed fixing on state highways last year. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/gps-2024-new-500-million-pothole-prevention-fund

In 2021-22, NZTA paid out about $9000 in compensation, on a total 796 compensation claims for pothole and other damage.

Controversy erupted 18 months ago over reports that pothole complaints had hit a record level - 555 for part of 2022 - only for Waka Kotahi to correct that figure downwards to just over 200 weeks later.

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A year on in 2023:

  • 200 complaints about pavement and surfacing or potholes
  • 145 complaints about potholes
  • 215 complaints about road conditions

The agency said it did not count the number of compensation claims specifically relating to potholes.

The total number of compensation claims was lower in earlier years, ranging between 298 and 421 from 2019-21, before the jump to 796 in 2022.

This accounts for complaints to NZTA by millions of drivers across many thousands of kilometres of roads for a year.

If your car is damaged, compensation is strictly limited.

"The state highway network isn't guaranteed to be free from defects at all times," the Transport Agency website said.

"Waka Kotahi or its contractors will only provide compensation if we haven't taken reasonable care to maintain the state highway network in good condition."

Potholes mainteance funding charts from NZTA.

Photo: Supplied / NZTA

Potholes were a big issue in local body and the general election last year. They featured in ACT Party policy, and there were photos of Christopher Luxon and Simeon Brown on the campaign trail next to potholes.

There was even a feud on Twitter, now known as X, on potholes between Brown and Labour Transport Minister Michael Wood. Labour has blamed stormier, wetter weather for more potholes.

However more recently, the damage big trucks do to roads has reared its head in Taranaki.

NZTA's annual review said it assessed itself on potholes, and whether it or its roading contractors had been negligent or not in a pothole forming.

"When drivers face damage to their vehicles because of defects in our roads, we look to understand whether NZTA and our contractors have acted reasonably," it said.

Negligence would entail failing to take proper care in responding to a defect.

"In such a case, it may be appropriate to compensate the customer for the reasonable costs of repairing the damage ... However, if we, or our contractors, acted reasonably, neither party should be liable.".

The agency had standards around fixing a defect within a "reasonable" time period.

The government policy statement on transport last month said pothole numbers had been increasing, and though maintenance funding was up, too, "the amount of rehabilitation and resealing has not" risen.

A review would include increased requirements to fix potholes on state highways within 24 hours to boost safety, it said.

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