Call to slow gorge’s sum­mer traf­fic

Coastal News - - News - By KIRI GILLE­SPIE

Busi­nesses in the pop­u­lar Karanga­hake Gorge are call­ing for a lower speed limit ahead of an an­tic­i­pated vis­i­tor in­flux this sum­mer.

The calls come as thenz Trans­port Agency con­firms it will re­view the 80km/h speed limit of the stretch of State High­way 2 between Waihi and Paeroa.

James Beck of Waikino Ho­tel said he feared a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent would hap­pen be­fore any­thing was done.

“If you start slow­ing peo­ple down to 60km/h in the area, it can create a back­log in the 100km/h zone — I un­der­stand it’s a tricky one. But ev­ery now and then you see some­one com­ing across the road and they’ve got kids with push­bikes, they’re there in the mid­dle of the road. It’s heart­stop­ping. Be­cause peo­ple don’t slow down com­ing past us.”

Beck’s com­ments come as a fixed speed cam­era lo­cated near the east­ern en­trance to the gorge is re­vealed as the sec­ond busiest in New Zealand, snap­ping 5388 speed­ers and haul­ing in more than half a mil­lion dol­lars in fines for the month of June.

“As far as penal­ties for peo­ple break­ing the speed limit, we’re all for it,” Mr Beck said.

“We are just go­ing to be­come busier and busier. There will be more peo­ple which means more cars on the road.”

The Tails­man Cafe and Crafts owner Karen Drake said the area was al­ready busy and she was sur­prised there had not been more crashes.

“All you hear out­side the win­dow is peo­ple honk­ing their horns be­cause peo­ple are trav­el­ling so fast and oth­ers are try­ing to turn in to us or the re­serve. Then you’ve got trucks com­ing around the cor­ner do­ing 90km/h, they start blar­ing their horn be­cause some­one is still get­ting up to speed from leav­ing the carpark.”

The cafe is lo­cated across from the main carpark and en­trance to the Karanga­hake Gorge re­serve. Work has re­cently been done to ex­tend the carpark here and pro­vide more park­ing at Waikino.

“Just com­ing out on the road is deadly. It’s in­cred­i­ble there hasn’t been more crashes. There’s got to be some­thing done about it,” she said.

She would ideally like an un­der­pass for pedes­tri­ans to cater for the gorge’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“The whole gorge area is meant to be scenic. Peo­ple need to slow down.”

Res­i­dent He­len Wil­son said the high­way was a “lethal piece of road”.

“It’s a busy road. It’s dan­ger­ous. You have to be ex­tra care­ful when you cross it. [Some driv­ers] still whip through there at 100km/h.”

Agency trans­port sys­tem man­ager Rob Camp­bell said it was de­vel­op­ing a pro­gramme which would de­ter­mine where im­proved speed man­age­ment could pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the num­ber of peo­ple who are killed or se­ri­ously in­jured on our roads.

“The pro­gramme in­cludes a re­view of speed lim­its between Paeroa and Waihi and is ex­pected to hap­pen in the next six months.”

The work is hap­pen­ing as part of the Safe Net­works pro­gramme, which will rapidly de­liver proven safety in­ter­ven­tions and safe and ap­pro­pri­ate speeds on high-risk routes across New Zealand, Mr Camp­bell said.

‘Just com­ing out on the road is deadly. It’s in­cred­i­ble there hasn’t been more crashes. There’s got to be some­thing done about it.

KAREN DRAKE Owner of The Tal­is­man Cafe and Crafts

PHOTO / ME­LANIE CAMOIN

Busi­nesses in the Karanga­hake Gorge such as the Waikino Ho­tel are call­ing for the 80km/h speed limit to be low­ered.

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