Tourist drivers cause concern

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 02/01/2014

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The death of a Chinese woman in Northern Southland has resulted in a high-ranking Chinese consulate member expressing concern for the safety of his countrymen on New Zealand roads.

Li Xin, the Vice Consul General of the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Christchurch, says more needs to be done to prevent Chinese citizens from dying and getting seriously injured in New Zealand.

Chinese tourists were the second-largest source of visitors after Australians and were increasingly opting to explore NZ on their own.

As more Chinese people explored the country, many were opting out of organised coach tours and getting behind the wheel of self-drive cars, Li Xin said.

This was especially true of the younger Chinese generation.

A lack of understanding of NZ road rules, road safety and road conditions needed to be addressed, he said.

The Chinese consulates in Christchurch and Auckland were doing a lot to educate the Chinese on road safety, but a lot more was still needed.

"The peak tourist season is coming and more and more Chinese tourists will arrive, and Queenstown is a must for them. Since the driving rules between our two countries are so different, the Chinese consulate will do everything possible to remind the Chinese tourists to drive with extreme care," Li Xin said.

The consulate was established in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake and during that time there had been several serious road crashes involving Chinese drivers.

"Often Chinese drivers know very little about the driving rules in New Zealand," he said. "It is almost the opposite with right-hand driving in China."

The roads leading to some of New Zealand's tourist hot spots were also different from the expectations of many Chinese.

"Chinese tourists think the roads will be big and wide like they are in a lot of China but they are often narrower and very winding, especially in some of New Zealand's more remote locations," Li Xin said.

The consular websites had information about driving in New Zealand, notices had been issued following any serious crashes and Chinese Government and tourism agencies back in China were also being encouraged to provide information for potential visitors.

The next step would be to translate New Zealand driving rules on the consulate website, Li Xin said.

CRASH VICTIM WAS VISITING DAUGHTER

A Chinese woman who died in a three-car crash in Northern Southland was in the country visiting her daughter, who studies at the University of Auckland.

The 56-year-old woman was in the rental car with her 30-year-old Auckland-based daughter, her husband and an uncle of the young woman when it crashed on Sunday.

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Vice-Consul General Li Xin, of the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Christchurch, said the dead woman had come to New Zealand with her husband and the other man in the car to visit her daughter. The four were travelling around the South Island when the crash happened.

The two men in the car, the driver, 43, and passenger, 58, were both still in a critical condition in Southland and Dunedin hospitals yesterday, Li Xin said.

The young woman, who lives in Auckland, was taken to Southland Hospital with moderate injuries.

A consular staff member travelled to Invercargill to visit the victims in hospital on Monday, and also went to the bedside of the 43-year-old driver in Dunedin, Li Xin said.

The Auckland-based woman's husband in China had been notified and was heading to New Zealand to be with his wife.

- The Southland Times

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