Push grows to cut speed at unsafe corner
More people are joining the debate about the notoriously dangerous corner on State Highway 1 at Mangamaunu following the response from NZ Transport Authority (NZTA) that they will not consider lowering the speed limit.
The issue was initially raised by Kaikoura Boardriders spokesman Brent Proctor, who spoke up after an accident involving two vehicles on Easter Monday.
Mr Proctor called for a reduction in the speed limit for that stretch of road because cars leaving the popular surfing car park north of Kaikoura cannot see oncoming traffic just 60 metres from the layby.
NZTA area manager Barry Stratton said a 100kmh limit was appropriate because there was no roadside development along that section of the highway.
Experience showed drivers were more likely to stick to speed limits that they felt were right for the road, he said.
However, NZTA had been in contact with the district council and KiwiRail to discuss alternatives to the dangerous practice of pedestrians walking on both the highway and the railway tracks, he said, and signs at either end of that section were installed to make motorists aware of the possibility of pedestrians.
Ian Surgenor said last week he was concerned by Mr Stratton's "flippant comments" and lack of support to reduce the speed limit. He had instead pointed the finger at pedestrians for crossing the road and rail tracks at the popular surf spot, Mr Surgenor said.
"Obviously it needs to be drawn to his attention that the surf break at the bay is an internationally recognised surf break for the quality of its waves and ... protected environmental status," he said.
"The bay also has significant cultural values to both Maori and non-Maori."
Mr Surgenor said the area was visited by thousands of international and domestic tourists every year, and when the surf was breaking well the carpark layby and adjacent road and rail strip was often packed with vehicles, surfers and spectators.
With no other access to the foreshore, it was inevitable people would walk along the highway and rail tracks. NZTA and other agencies were failing to provide a safe carpark area and beach access, he said.
"This is a major safety issue being neglected because these agencies combined are sitting on their hands and failing to acknowledge an ever increasing number of a variety of foreshore users."
He was pleased KiwiRail had slowed trains down on that stretch and now sound horns at busy times.
Mr Surgenor, who has used the layby since 1966 when it was just a gravel area, said it was a matter of when, not if, a major accident would occur.
NZTA state highways manager Colin Knaggs said the agency was aware of the issues but would not move on reducing the speed limit.
"One of the options for improving safety at this highway shoulder is to close it ... any decisions ... will only be made once we have talked with the Kaikoura District considered their views."
However, Mr Surgenor and others in the surfing community say there are many options open to NZTA.
"Let's not wait until it becomes a black spot through tragedy and then decide to deal with it," he said.