Hang onto your spears ​

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJune 25, 2021

Sitting in the ute on the way to Tauranga last Saturday, I waited patiently for my turn to pass through the floodwaters flowing over the bridge on SH2 just east of Katikati. I’ve read first-hand accounts of people who have come close to drowning, and they often say that just before the moment when all is lost, there’s an overwhelming sense of calm. I found myself in a somewhat similar state in regards to the state of the roads and my ongoing frustration.

Sitting there, I reflected on the extensive works undertaken over the past few years on this stretch of road. I then thought of Takaka Hill about to enter its fifth summer of utter chaos. I thought about the millions spent on SH1/5 between Wairakei and the Napier-Taupo intersection, when SH5 Taupo to Napier is nothing more than a national disgrace. Then there’s the bridge on SH1 Ashburton that’s obviously in dire trouble. Experts can say what they like – bemoan me, whatever – but when a bridge slumps, it’s in trouble. It can’t not be. There’s no sign on it saying, “This bridge is likely to slump when the river is in flood. It’s a design feature and nothing to be alarmed at.” Can you imagine what Worksafe would say if a walkway at your business had a slump in it?

Interestingly, one well-connected person told me the other day that up until this month’s tempest in Canterbury, it’s the Rakaia Bridge that’s been the worry. Ashburton’s only added to the stress. Neither, it has to be said, was this someone whose words I take lightly.

For all those thoughts, I was flushed with calm. Looking out the windscreen at the raging water, I wondered if bridges were what the government doesn’t like. It is in the midst of spent millions and millions of dollars on the road I was on (Waihi to Katikati), under the label ‘safety upgrades’, but none of it is being spent on widening or improving the absurdly inadequate bridges, of which I was probably stopped at the worst. And this was no Waimakariri or Rangitata in full song; it’s a stream at best, more likely a big drain. It’s not going to take the Millau Viaduct to breach it. You’d only need a couple of diggers, a Moxy or two, some huge culvert pipes, 350 people, a safety observer, and you’d have it nailed in under three years.

Then, a simple irony made its presence felt. I think it was last week that Julie Anne Genter bemoaned the way utes were marketed in this country and how the purveyors of the ‘Devil’s Carriage’ petition the primal brain in potential buyers. Interesting, because in our primal state, fording a swollen watercourse was likely a daily occurrence. I, therefore, say, thank you, Ford Motor Company. Thank you for giving me a tool that facilitated safe carriage through this stream surging over SH2, a road in such as state courtesy of Genter and co’s belief that railings and cats-eyes outweigh the road surface in terms of safety priority.

Until they have a realignment on that lunacy, the good-old high-ground-clearance ICE vehicle probably needs to hang around a bit. I can’t see ‘sparky’ winning any swimming races.

All the best

Dave McCoid