Traffic lights control box 'properly drowned'

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 13:49 05/12/2013
damaged traffic lights control box
SUPPLIED/ Alan Shaw
TORN OUT AND DROWNED: A traffic light control box was ripped from its foundations on Factory Rd, near Temuka, and dumped in the Orari River. It took a crane to recover the box and will cost an estimated $20,000 to get the lights going again on the one-way-bridge.

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The Timaru District Council has turned red after a traffic light control box was ripped from its foundation and dumped in the Orari River.

It will cost at least $20,000 to repair the damaged box, which was taken from the north side of a one-way bridge on Factory Rd, near Temuka, in the early hours of Wednesday.

The culprit is believed to have needed large agricultural equipment to commit the offence.

Traffic signals contractor Alan Shaw said that was made evident after a crane truck, which was needed to recover the box, became stuck in the riverbed.

''We had to spend two hours trying to get the truck out so it couldn't have been done with a conventional vehicle.''

The gear was ''plucked'' out of the ground with an estimated 500 kilograms of concrete still attached. It was dragged along a track to the riverbed, following a path that went under the bridge. The culprit then dragged it across a wide waterway to ''properly drown it'', Mr Shaw said.

Signage has been installed at both ends of the bridge to warn motorists the signals were no longer working. Further signage will also be added, giving right-of-way to one direction of traffic. It is not yet known if it will be north or south bound traffic that will get right-of-way.

Mr Shaw is working hard to find a replacement, which could cost the council in excess of $20,000.

''We'll spend at least that, possibly more.''

He said secondhand parts could be used but were becoming harder to come by.

''Sometimes it's possible to get a second hand controller unit, but the likely source of those would have been Christchurch. But, of course with the earthquakes there's nothing spare up there.''

Farmers in the area have complained about the lights in the past, according to Timaru District Council's land transport manager Andrew Dixon.

While the lights had been installed to improve traffic safety, Mr Dixon said some local farmers ''did not like being delayed'' and did not appreciate having traffic signals in a rural area.

The lights have been in place for at least nine years and were installed as a safety measure as it was a busy stretch of road catering for a lot of heavy traffic, Mr Dixon said.

''It was an act of vandalism. It was premeditated, deliberate. Some people did not like it (the lights), but there is very little reasoning behind vandalism. Look at the effort they go to to damage the piazza lift. Parking meters are pushed over, parking machines damaged.''

If the offenders were apprehended and charged, Mr Dixon said the council would be seeking reparation for the damage caused.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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