Road fix for northern route urgently needed

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2014

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Another death is likely if efforts to make State Highway 3 north safer are not treated with more urgency.

The call for action comes from frustrated truck drivers, the Road Transport Agency and local MPs, who say too little has been done to make the road north of New Plymouth safe for its users.

On Saturday it was revealed that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) was repeatedly told rockfalls posed a significant hazard to motorists before a falling boulder south of Pio Pio killed car passenger Heather Joy Thompson, 74.

JD Hickman owner-operator John Hickman said the entire quality of the road needed to be restored.

He said many areas on the road needed attention and he was unhappy with the way it had been dealt with so far.

Sandfords transport company manager Phil Sandford said with the state of the road it would be near-impossible to prevent another death.

"There's hundreds of spots it's likely to happen. It's like a needle in a haystack."

He said many of the faults were not obvious, and more rockfalls were likely to happen with wet weather.

Tom Cloke of the Road Transport Association said preventative maintenance was the key to keeping the road safe.

He believed the fact that the contractor had seen there was a problem, which the NZTA had not acted on, was not good enough.

"They've taken corrective action but it's a little bit too late," he said.

National MP Jonathan Young said he was due to meet Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to discuss SH3 when the minister returned from overseas.

"I carry a concern for all travellers on SH3, the majority who are travelling to and from New Plymouth," he said.

He was happy with the remedial work done on the south face of the cliffs since Thompson's death in March, he said, but the cliffs on the northern side needed to be assessed, and remedial work done if any risk was identified.

Labour MP Andrew Little said the $5 million a year that had been spent on the entire road over the last 10 years was not enough. At least $15m to $20m should be spent on improving the region's only route north over the next 10 years.

He said with Taranaki looking to increase the value of tourism in the region, people needed to feel that the road was safe.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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