Mayors demand action on state highway before holidays
The high number of serious motor vehicle crashes, some resulting in fatalities, in less than two weeks on State Highway 1 is totally unacceptable to the communities of Ka¯ piti and Horowhenua, say Mayor of Ka¯ piti Coast K. Gurunathan and Mayor of Horowhenua Michael Feyen in a statement released late on Wednesday.
Both mayors are demanding an effective and immediate response from NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) before the heavy holiday traffic heads north. “That means now,” they said. The mayors say two fatalities occurred on sections of highway that NZTA would claim have had “safety improvements” recently — at O¯ hau and the Waikawa Beach turnoff on the Manakau straight.
Local people are of the view and have tried to make NZTA understand that in fact the Waikawa turnoff is now more dangerous than before, the mayors say.
On the community’s behalf the mayors are seeking an urgent meeting with NZTA’s senior leadership team to find a way to make changes before there are more fatalities.
Feyen and Gurunathan believe that it is not simply a matter of reducing the speed limit, rather it is a case of making physical safety improvements. NZTA has publicly stated that it will fund and build them, but it is imperative that this is done immediately with a clear start date.
“These recent tragic accidents continue the observation of former coroner Philip Comber who noted that, over the past 25 years, the roads had become ‘a killing field marked like a battlefield with white crosses’,” said Gurunathan.
“I want to appeal directly to Transport Minister Phil Twyford to step in as this systemic killing field scenario is contrary to his government’s stated GPS [Government Policy Statement] priority on safety.
“People in O¯ taki are vulnerable because they are forced to travel north to Levin and Palmerston North for access to a lot of their services. O¯ taki residents rushing to access health services have to negotiate this killing field.”
Feyen said there were “numerous improvements that can be delivered by NZTA right now that will make an immediate difference”.
“None of these are excessively costly in the greater scheme of things. What price can be put on human life?
“NZTA has to accept that the local communities have had enough and further delays are not an option.”
O¯ taki MP Nathan Guy is wading into the debate on road safety with the following statement:
“My sympathy goes out to those who have lost loved ones in the recent car crashes around the electorate. It is terribly tragic.
“I also feel for local police, fire and ambulance personnel who do an outstanding job in difficult and often sad circumstances. There has been too much carnage on our local State Highway.
Immediate action is needed to make this deadly section of SH safer especially with heavy holiday traffic just around the corner.
“NZTA have been way too slow making a decision on the O2NL expressway.
“Their decsion to make this road a two-lane highway rather than a four-lane expressway is short sighted.
“It is a kick in the guts to the local Horowhenua community and motorists.
“Vehicle registrations around the country are increasing at a rate of 200,000 a year and in ten years there will be 5.2 million cars on our roads, meaning an extra million by the time the new highway is completed.”
Horowhenua Mayor Michael Feyen and Ka¯ piti Coast Mayor K. Gurunathan.