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.