Informer Article

Zebra Crossing Result of Stalemate in Kuaotunu Village Centre

Brent Page, chair of the Kuaotunu Residents and Ratepayers Association (KRRA), is disappointed in Thames-Coromandel District Council’s response to what can only be described as an artistic zebra crossing that appeared the weekend before last in the Kuaotunu village centre.

The crossing is the latest instalment in a long-running campaign to install vehicle calming measures in the village. “More people, especially younger families, are moving into the Kuaotunu area,” said Mr Page. “There is a new subdivision in Opito Bay and more logging activity in the area, and Black Jack Road past the Kuaotunu Fire Station and Lukes Kitchen is getting busier. We’ve been talking to TCDC for many years to get the vehicles going through the village to slow down.”

Good progress was made at a meeting between several concerned Kuaotunu residents and Ed Varley, the TCDC roading manager, at the end of last year. The measures that were discussed included new road markings and reducing the existing speed limit from 50km/h to 30km/h. The residents indicated that the local community’s agreement to co-fund the costs of implementing the measures. 

Unfortunately, six months later Mr Varley informed the residents that a law change was in the pipeline that would increase the powers of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency with regard to proposed changes to speed limits on local council roads across New Zealand. Until the law change was approved by Parliament, it was unlikely anything would be done in the Kuaotunu village centre. In August this year, the KRRA wrote to Mr Varley expressing frustration that the campaign has stalled. “The mandate from our residents and ratepayers is quite clear,” the email said. “They need a safe village environment and many are extremely frustrated. We know we have the support of our schools, our local fire service and the communities of Otama, Opito and Matarangi.

“We sincerely hope that you will reactivate your… work on the solution options in order to avoid another dangerous summer in Kuaotunu.”

Following a further exchange of emails, Mr Varley confirmed earlier this month that TCDC has prepared a draft speed management plan “that has identified the potential to reduce the current 50km/h speed through Kuaotunu to 30km/h, with the use of additional speed management measures provided”. However, with the pressure put on various government departments by the Covid-19 Delta outbreak, the law providing greater powers to Waka Kotahi has not yet been changed.

The stalemate led to one or more people painting the crossing in the village centre. Mr Varley was not impressed. He wrote to the KRRA saying, “I must advise you that this is not an approved crossing and has been created without [TCDC’s] consent or authorisation. “The road marking is non-compliant with current standards and will be removed by council as soon as resources are available. I would be grateful if you could advise the community that any persons using the crossing do so at their own risk and that pedestrians have no priority over vehicle traffic.”

The KRRA, through Mr Page, replied that they do not condone what may be construed as potentially unlawful behaviour. “We are very aware of the depth of feeling that has been building up, especially among the many families here with young children, as they are kept up to date with information that clearly highlights both our own council’s and NZTA’s complete lack of empathy, understanding and action when it comes to the issue of instigating traffic calming measures in the centre of our village,” Mr Page said.

“I take your point regarding the community using this ‘crossing’ at their own risk, but surely it must be clear that locals, visitors, dogs, children and pensioners have been crossing backwards and forwards over this stretch of road for years ‘at their own risk’. It is a small miracle that there has not been a serious accident to date.”

In a statement to The Informer, TCDC said, “We’re working with the [KRRA] and Waka Kotahi to manage driver speed and pedestrian safety on this part of Black Jack Road. A zebra crossing will not be provided as part of these proposals.

“There are no historical safety issues with this location, but here are more people in the area walking about during the summer.” Mr Page said the statement is disingenuous and factually wrong. “We have witnessed many ‘near misses’ and minor impacts in the village [centre] over the years, just no deaths luckily,” he said. “It would be more than a shame if that’s what it took.

“Remarkably, by this ‘illegal’ action… something positive may happen. It shouldn’t ever need to come to this.”

Republished courtesy of the Mercury Bay Informer