Speeding drivers prompt road closure

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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Speeding drivers led to state-owned Genesis's decision to close the Tekapo canal road.

According to figures provided to the Herald, nearly one-third of drivers would flout the advised speed limit along the road during summer.

State-owned generator Genesis, which operates the canal, has decided to permanently close the canal road between Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.

The move has angered many fishermen and campers, who have used the road since it was formed in the 1970s as part of the Upper Waitaki hydro project.

However, Genesis said it undertook a vehicle survey in October 2012, and then over the weeks leading up to the canal shutdown for repairs in January 2013.

The surveys recorded a total of 2371 vehicles which travelled along the road during the October survey (both directions), and a total of 7302 vehicles during the December/January survey.

Maximum speeds reached during the surveyed period were 156.6kmh, while up to 32 per cent of vehicles monitored travelled over 100kmh along the surveyed section of the road, well above the posted speed advisory of 80 kmh.

Genesis spokesman Richard Gordon said this data proved important in deciding to close the road.

"Not only were a significant proportion of the road users travelling at excessive speeds, they were also ignoring existing traffic management tools, such as speed limit signage," Mr Gordon said.

Senior Constable Brent Swanson, of Tekapo, confirmed the road was a potential danger spot.

"There had been a couple of incidents during my time as a constable in the region ... part of the problem is that people treated it like part of the state highway, rather than a separate stretch of road. In comparison, the canal road is a relatively thin stretch of road," he said.

Mr Swanson said there had been talks with other emergency services about the hazards.

"My worry was that we would get a large vehicle, such as a tour bus, go off the road and veer into the water," he said.

Mr Swanson said Genesis had spoken to the police before it decided to close the road at the beginning of its $125 million repair of the canals.

"At the end of the day, Genesis deals in power, not roads, and they made a business decision," Mr Swanson said.

Genesis inherited the Tekapo canal when it was forced by the Government to buy the Tekapo A and B power stations from Meridian Energy.

The cost was put at about $800 million.

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- The Timaru Herald

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