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Dedication to Waikato road safety rewarded

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Michelle Te Wharau lives and breathes road safety and that was recognised recently when the NZ Transport Agency’s Waikato principal safety engineer received a special honour.

(L-R) Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace, the Transport Agency’

(L-R) Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace, the Transport Agency’s Waikato principal safety engineer Michelle Te Wharau, and Leo Tooman, who presented the award.

Michelle Te Wharau lives and breathes road safety and that was recognised recently when the NZ Transport Agency’s Waikato principal safety engineer received a special honour.

At this month’s Waikato District Police Pay Parade Mrs Te Wharau was presented with the Leo Tooman Road Safety Award for her efforts in making Waikato roads safer.

The annual Police Pay Parade recognises acts of bravery, long service and good conduct.

Mrs Te Wharau, who works in the Transport Agency’s Hamilton office, was delighted to receive the award but said it represented a team effort.

“While safety is my key role and passion, the award really reflects the shared responsibility everyone at the Transport Agency has which contributes to a safer transport system,” she said.

Mrs Te Wharau has worked for the Transport Agency and its predecessors Transit NZ and Land Transport NZ, and brings a strong engineering background to her safety role.

She began her engineering career with the Hauraki Catchment Board before moving into roading, then road safety.

Since 2009 she has headed the Transport Agency’s Hamilton-based safety team as principal safety engineer.

She says she is very proud of the job her team does as they work towards the Transport Agency’s goal of reducing deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads. 

“The Transport Agency is working with Police and others to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by taking a Safe System approach,” she says.

“The Safe System approach looks across the entire road system to improve safety by creating safer roads and roadsides, safer speeds, safer vehicles and safer road use.

“It recognises that people make mistakes and are vulnerable in a crash, and aims to reduce the price paid for a mistake so crashes don't result in death or serious injuries

“To reduce  deaths and serious injuries you have to be able to influence decisions around having safer roads and roadsides,” she said.

“That means having strong relationships with partners in the region, like the police, councils and industry groups.

“Road safety is a national priority but it is delivered regionally – and that’s where we are always trying to make a difference.”

Recent projects she has taken the Safe System approach to include the Hangatiki roundabout at the intersection SH3/37 – the turnoff to the Waitomo Caves – and the SH2 Maramarua Highway, where an appropriate rural speed limit was introduced ahead of other safety works.

The Tooman award was presented to Mrs Te Wharau by Leo Tooman, the former Waikato road policing manager, who retired after 48 years in the police in 2013.

His successor, Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace acknowledged Mrs Te Wharau’s passion for road safety at the ceremony,  saying it is at the forefront of all she does.

“Michelle places significant effort in to working with others, ensuring that the relationships she builds are partnerships,” Ms Grace said.

“She ensures she is taking everyone on the journey with her, in what could often be described as complex situations with many competing demands.”

Ends

For more information of the Transport Agency’s Safe System approach click here(external link).

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