NZTA brings road incident management into focus

A nationwide seminar held in Rotorua on March 5 and 6 has provided a valuable opportunity to discuss ways in which the management of incidents on New Zealand’s state highways and other roads can be improved.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) initiative, run with assistance from key sponsors Opus Consultants, attracted over 100 participants from New Zealand and overseas. Those attending included representatives from police, fire services, councils, regional councils, consultants, contractors, motorist and heavy vehicle organisations, the insurance industry and St John Ambulance.
The NZTA’s Waikato State Highway Manager, Kaye Clark, was one of the key speakers at the NZTA, along with staff from NZTA Traffic Operations. “Communication; role clarity and an efficient chain of command are key elements we need to build on when working together with our road incident management partners,” says Mrs Clark. “At the same time, people must remain at the centre of our focus – both those involved in the incidents and those affected by them. Managing road incidents effectively ties in with the government’s Safer Journeys strategy – and our agency and the organisations attending this seminar work hard to achieve this. We are always aware of the human costs associated with crashes, delays and road closures when managing road incidents.”
“On the other hand, people also have expectations around keeping our roads open for business 24/7,” says Mrs Clark. “We know that reliability and better road access contributes to New Zealand’s economic wellbeing – which is why it’s vital to ensure our goods can get to our ports on time. Balancing those expectations will always be a challenge. Another aspect of road incident management we’re committed to addressing is the difficulty of getting regular, timely and accurate updates on what’s happening and sharing that appropriately and effectively.”
Mrs Clark points out that the NZTA does have an incident protocol document with key partners: Police, NZ Fire Service, ambulance. “The latest document was signed in 2002. It’s currently being reviewed, although major changes are not expected. That protocol is a high level document, so this seminar has given us a chance to gather valuable input from the ground level upwards to strengthen our strategic work.”
Overseas speakers at the seminar included Eric Rensell from the United States National Traffic Incident Management Coalition; and David Wainwright from the New South Wales Traffic Operations Centre, who talked about the ‘F3 event’ which occurred in Sydney in 2010. Other New Zealand speakers came from police (NZ Serious Crash Investigation Unit and Road Policing Support); NZ Fire Service; St John Ambulance; Opus Consultants; the Road Transport Forum; Automobile Association, law firm Simpson Grierson; Waikato Regional Council; and road construction contractors.

“The RIM seminar has presented a unique opportunity for New Zealanders to come together to discuss important and critical matters relating to traffic incident management,” says David Wainwright. “I really appreciated the honesty and candour which was demonstrated both by the presenters and the people asking questions which promoted good dialogue across all sectors including contractors, consultants, and incident responders. Presentations were of a high calibre and supported with excellent graphics and evidence, real world examples which enabled me to relate to the conference content.”
Kaye Clark says effective and efficient coordination of effort among all major road incident management stakeholders will make a difference. “Achieving this will enable us to create multiple benefits for road users and our partners in road incident management. It’s about keeping people at the heart of our approach: we know that our roads connect business and our communities. Speaking for the NZTA, I know our agency’s teams around the country work hard on managing incidents on state highways – but there’s always room for improvement.”

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