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Government agencies partner to address traffic congestion and improve safety

Thursday 7 December 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National

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Government agencies partner to address traffic congestion and improve safety
Cook Islands Police Commissioner James Keenan, Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) secretary Elizabeth Wright-Koteka and Ministry of Transport head John Hosking signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise standards for the construction and maintenance of roads including guidelines. MELINA ETCHES/23120604

Police, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) will be taking actions to better manage traffic in the Avarua town centre to reduce risks, improve pedestrian safety and experience as well as measures for public transport.

A road sign standard will be gazetted as required under the amendment – section 114 of the Transport Act.

This week, Police Commissioner James Keenan, Secretary for Transport John Hosking and Secretary for ICI Elizabeth Wright-Koteka signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise standards for the construction and maintenance of roads, to adopt guidelines for the marking of roads, for traffic control measures and signs, as well as parking. 

Wright-Koteka said, based on their own observations and in response to public concerns, that the upcoming improved measures in town are just the beginning of making our communities safer.

She said the Infrastructure Act 2019 amended section 3 of the Transport Act 1966, by making the Police Commissioner and Secretary for ICI responsible for developing protocols related to roads, traffic control and signage, and parking.

“We actually already employ the use of some international standards and guidelines but we are finally formalising practice through this MoU,” Wright-Koteka said.

“We are also adopting and adapting other engineering and road sign standards under the Infrastructure Act as it is currently stipulated.”

Commissioner Keenan said most vehicle accidents are related to driver carelessness and poor judgement.

“We have a Transport Act that needs bringing into the 21st century to recognise the changes in vehicle ownership, the modern lifestyle and modern vehicles that are getting larger and faster,” he said.

The 2019 amendment to the Transport Act allows the start of updating the transport related rules to reflect the occurrences of today.

“More work needs to be done of course and we continue on that journey,” he added.

Hosking said Police and ICI are taking the right steps moving forward, and he is looking forward to the road improvement changes.

In 2017, the Cook Islands ranked 18th in the world for highest vehicle ownership with 689 vehicles per 1000 people, surpassing countries like Canada and Germany, according to international data, said Hosking.

Samoa had 122.8, Fiji 120.6 and New Zealand had 783.3 registered vehicles per 1000 people.

“We could see high vehicle ownership as a symptom of wealth but it is also a symptom of poor planning,” he said. “The result being congestion and reduced road safety among many other societal and environmental problems.”

Hosking said that they will examine guidelines from countries with valuable lessons learned to help manage the effects of high vehicle numbers, particularly on Rarotonga, while ensuring these guidelines adapt effectively to the Cook Islands context.