Parents desperate for action
Concerned parents are taking safety into their own hands in Otaki, making large ‘‘slow down’’ and ‘‘children crossing’’ signs to draw attention to what they say is a dangerous crossing area on State Highway 1.
However, just a day after four signs were erected last week, two were stolen.
Parents Shelley Warwick and Leigh Rau made the signs after fruitless attempts to get improvements to the stretch of State Highway 1 north of Otaki, where children cross in both directions on their way to and from Otaki College and Waitohu School.
Mrs Warwick said she has had enough after about 20 years of fighting to get safety at the crossing increased. ‘‘It’s just really dangerous,’’ she said. ‘‘ Since we have talked with [ the NZ Transport Agency] they have put up a couple of little signs but it isn’t enough.’’
Mrs Warwick said larger and better placed signs were needed but an underpass should be built through an already used route under the highway, to get children off the main highway.
‘‘At the moment you get into the middle of the road, and there is not enough room to get out of the way of the trucks and buses coming past.’’
Mrs Warwick said they put the signs up on Tuesday morning, and yesterday morning noticed the larger green signs had been stolen.
‘‘It is a bit disappointing, but we are going to get some cardboard and make some big new ones. They won’t last in the rain but they are easily re-made.’’
She said the signs were probably stolen for scooter ramps by students.
Waitohu School principal Maine Curtis said he wants an underpass built ‘‘as soon as humanly possible’’ to ensure the safety of school children.
‘‘ The great thing about this is there is a place there to put an underpass in, which would not take that much effort.’’
Signs erected by New Zealand Transport Agency last Friday would not make much difference to traffic using SH1, he said, and money should not be a factor in building an underpass.
‘‘About $1 billion is being spent [on roads] inside the KCDC [Kapiti Coast District Council] catchment inside the next 10 years, so you can’t say that this would be a financial risk.’’
Sergeant Noel Bigwood said the crossing was a concern for police, and they target speeding motorists along the stretch.
‘‘People accelerate up the ramp and don’t slow down coming into town, so it is well known for speeding drivers,’’ he said. ‘‘There are also a lot of crashes there, mainly from people going too fast and causing nose to tails.’’
He said police will continue to patrol the stretch of road in an attempt to slow traffic.
Wellington state highways manager Rod James said the agency was working closely with schools and Kapiti Coast District Council to make the stretch of road safer.
He said the road had a good safety record for pedestrians but he would like to see further safety work in light of the recent concerns.
‘‘The agency has responded promptly to community concerns by installing a warning sign to advise motorists of the presence of children crossing the road,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re also planning to move the crossing to a safer spot with greater visibility and we want to increase the size of the refuge area to reduce the chance of children spilling out onto the road.’’
Mr James said larger signs were placed at proper zebra crossings and would be considered if NZTA upgraded the crossing to a full zebra crossing. He said the idea of a subway had been raised but the agency would prefer a level crossing solution where children were in plain sight.
Parents and teachers will put their case to the Otaki Community Board meeting on March 27.
Dangerous: School children display homemade signs to slow traffic near the so-called crossing on State Highway 1 in Otaki.