Road ad campaign criticised

The New Zealand Taxpayers Union has written to the Public Service Commission requesting an intervention over Waka Kotahi’s Road to Zero public awareness campaign.

The Taxpayers Union claims that Waka Kotahi has spent just over $4.7 million on the first two television advertisements promoting the government’s Road to Zero strategy. The spending is separate from the $2.4 million recently spent on the Safe Limits television ad.

In February, the government officially launched its Road to Zero public awareness campaign promoting its target of zero deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand’s roads by 2050. Waka Kotahi was allocated $14.7 million in new funding for the campaign but has told the Union it plans to spend as much as $197 million on Road to Zero promotions and educational activities.

The first Road to Zero ad shows a holidaying family stopped at a toll booth by a woman in a wig, who looks at the family’s youngest child and says the toll will be “just the little one today”. Horror music is played before we are told, “It’s time we stopped paying the road toll. We have a vision to reach zero deaths by 2050”.

The second ad shows a family crashing into a road barrier. One by one, mechanics, road workers and police officers emerge from the car explaining how they all helped to stop the crash from being worse.

The ad cuts to, “It takes everyone to get to no one”.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says neither ad actually encourages drivers to change their behaviour – instead, Waka Kotahi is using its massive advertising budget to promote a Government initiative.

In response, a Waka Kotahi spokesperson says Road to Zero identifies five areas of focus – infrastructure and speed, vehicles, work-related road safety, road user choices and system management.

“The strategy recognises a need to build public understanding and support for road safety action in order to achieve the 2030 targets for reduced deaths and serious injuries, and the Road to Zero public awareness campaign supports that objective,” the spokesperson says.