Editorial: Vandalism on steroids

18:49, Dec 05 2013
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There'll be the odd flutter of admiration out there, I'll wager.

Not that it's deserved, but just for the sheer audacity of an act surely among the most brazen and bizarre in South Canterbury's criminal history.

What level of planning, and for that matter what depths of anger or frustration, must have gone into the incident that took place a few kilometres north of Temuka early on Wednesday?

A traffic light control unit, concreted into the ground alongside Factory Rd, was pulled out of the ground with more than 500kg of concrete attached, and deposited in the Orari River.

The river flows under a nearby single-lane bridge, controlled by traffic lights at either end, in turn controlled, until now, by that unit.

Plainly every effort had been made when the unit was installed, nine years ago, to make it a permanent fixture. It's an expensive piece of equipment, for one thing, and it had a road safety function. Once the decision was taken to install the lights, obviously there would have been a desire on the part of the council to ensure it could function uninterrupted.


So an extreme action was required to bring that to a halt, an action involving, the council believes, heavy agricultural equipment.

The question on everyone's minds is what on earth would motivate anyone to go to such lengths.

Traffic lights certainly have their strong opponents. You wouldn't have to shake too many trees around Timaru to find a healthy number of residents who believe the town has too many. And you could probably mount a convincing argument against some of them.

So it's no surprise to find that a traffic light in a rural area has its opponents. But it's there to promote safer driving conditions, for pity's sake. Factory Rd is busy, articulated juggernauts traverse it day in and day out, big transport company rigs and, just quietly, tanker trucks. Fonterra's Clandeboye dairy factory is not too far from that bridge.

Plainly, it was believed that the volumes of heavy traffic in the area, and the fact that the bridge is a one-laner, justified the lights. It's hard to quibble from where I'm sitting.

Obviously, though, that requires patience from road users. Whether it was a lack of it that led to this bizarre incident, or something else, we won't know until someone is apprehended.

But let's be clear; this wasn't funny, or clever, it was an act of vandalism that's cost the council, and therefore ratepayers, a significant amount of money. Hopefully the culprit/s can be identified and dealt with appropriately.

The Timaru Herald