Karanga­hake Gorge on AA’s wish list


In the lat­est ac­ci­dent in the Karanga­hake Gorge, which has been named as the third most dan­ger­ous stretch of road in the coun­try, a young woman was trapped in a crashed car with one wheel hang­ing over the safety bar­rier.

Head­ing north to­wards Paeroa on State High­way 2, her ve­hi­cle was in­volved in a four-car smash near the mid­dle of the gorge.

The Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion, rep­re­sent­ing 1.6 mil­lion mo­torists, has re­cently re­leased its most dan­ger­ous road list, and SH2 sits at num­ber 3.

The AA is now call­ing on all po­lit­i­cal par­ties to com­mit to a mas­sive in­vest­ment in sub­stan­dard high­ways, in­clud­ing the Karanga­hake Gorge, ahead of Septem­ber’s gen­eral election.

Roughly 40 per cent of the coun­try’s state high­way net­work has a two-star safety rat­ing, which means they fea­ture haz­ards such as nar­row shoul­ders, slant­ing sur­faces, and ditches run­ning along­side them, and the gorge is no dif­fer­ent.

AA mo­tor­ing af­fairs gen­eral man­ager Mike Noon said re­search sug­gests lift­ing the rat­ing to a three-star qual­ity would halve the num­ber of se­ri­ous in­juries.

‘‘These high­ways have risks most driv­ers do not see and if they make a mis­take on these roads, the out­comes are ex­tremely se­vere. If you make the same mis­take on our bet­ter-en­gi­neered roads it’s a far lesser out­come,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of work has been done on main high­ways but not enough at­ten­tion has been given to ru­ral roads, many of which are tourist routes.’’

Hau­raki District Coun­cil Mayor John Tregidga said a lot of al­ter­na­tives had been dis­cussed and stud­ied, in­clud­ing tak­ing the road up and over the old Rahu Rd, but none had stacked up.

‘‘There has been a lot done on safety in the gorge in­clud­ing more pass­ing bays, no pass­ing lines, and a re­duc­tion in speed to 80kmh. It is just the sheer vol­ume of traf­fic now us­ing the road which makes it more ac­ci­dent prone,’’ he said.

He said the long term fix to the prob­lem was com­ing and it had al­ready started though it is a lit­tle way off yet.

‘‘The four-lane high­way from Auck­land to Cam­bridge is al­most fin­ished and the next stretch of it is over the Kaimais to Tau­ranga which will make that the preferred route from Auck­land to Tau­ranga tak­ing big trucks and a lot of traf­fic out of the gorge,’’ he said. ‘‘Un­til this hap­pens there needs to be more safety work done in the gorge.’’

Re­ac­tions to post­ing SH2’s rank­ing on so­cial me­dia brought a mix of re­ac­tions about driv­ers and con­di­tions but most agreed it was not the road it­self that is the dan­ger.

Reuben Wells said he had driven trucks through there for years with­out any is­sue, even be­fore the widen­ing and the drop to 80km.

‘‘The big­gest haz­ard was peo­ple in cars. New Zealand you need to learn how to drive to con­di­tions,’’ he said.

Sam Bakker said the road it­self is not par­tic­u­larly well­main­tained these days. ‘‘It is lit­tered with pot­holes and rough, un­even sur­faces in some dodgy spots too. That doesn’t help. But to be fair, they keep ‘patch­ing’ it to avoid the dis­rup­tion of a clo­sure.

‘‘The state of the roads is ter­ri­ble re­ally con­sid­er­ing they’re state high­ways through these ar­eas.’’

Some said the lack of bar­ri­ers in some parts of the gorge could be rec­ti­fied and a pos­si­ble re­duc­tion of speed might help.

Paeroa’s Bar­bara Berry posted on Neigh­bourly. ‘‘This isn’t a dan­ger­ous road, it’s the driv­ers who travel this road far too quickly and don’t drive to the con­di­tions that make it dan­ger­ous. It’s an 80kmh speed limit and has beau­ti­ful scenery that should be en­joyed.‘‘

A dam­aged road bar­rier af­ter im­pact from a crash in Karanga­hake Gorge.

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