Jumping the gun

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersNovember 4, 2022

As a media person, I can be really irked by overzealous – if not misleading – marketing and messaging. Consider the press release titled ‘New roundabout finished at Katikati’ issued by Waka Kotahi at 10:50 on Wednesday, 2 November, and the opening paragraph:

“The first of six new roundabouts between Katikati and Ōmokoroa has been built and will be open in November, with just a few final touches left to complete, including line marking and installing signs and barriers.”

I’ve watched construction of this roundabout since it began at the end of February, driving this part of SH2 up to six times a month. I was particularly interested when the Katikati-side southbound lane was raised, and new chip applied – mounds of earth were compacted, then given a thin layer of stone chips. ‘Surely, that’s just temporary,’ I thought. When the traffic flow was switched for the northbound lane to have its turn, I thought as I first drove this new piece of road, ‘Surely, the finished product will be more level and smoother than this? Maybe it all just has to settle?’

This lane soon began to show deterioration. Funnily enough, I drove through there again on Tuesday, 1 November and thought, ‘It won’t be long until they’re done with all this. I hope they fix this patchwork of ruts before packing up.’

After reading the PR, it took me a while to get my jaw back into place. ‘What are the chances they’d have fixed that overnight?’ So, yesterday, I drove to Katikati – and no… the announcement and what I’d seen just did not match.

Before embarking on an editorial rampage, I emailed Waka Kotahi’s media department on Wednesday to find out if those “final few touches” include fixing what is perceived to be new road. To its credit, I got a timely response from the agency and an enlightening call from the section contractor project manager. In short, due to heavy rain this year, it was decided to lay a single layer of chip to seal the road, knowing it would have to be stripped and redone properly in better weather. Whether or not that’ll happen before the cones and temporary speed limit boards are packed up was unclear.

So, while I was ready to get riled up and call out all and sundry for the appalling quality of the road work, a bit of understanding here is fair enough.

However, the agency has again prematurely blown its trumpet about work wrapping up on another project to improve road conditions. As it stands right now, that piece of road cannot be considered improved, and that section of the project cannot be considered finished. The roundabout might be good to go, but the hundreds of lane metres in each direction currently aren’t. Yesterday half of Rea Road was even still coned off for work… If I were a cog in the machine that built it, I’d be ashamed to walk away from it as it stands – and I’d also be embarrassed at the impression the announcement gave.

The agency does itself no favours in the public or media’s eyes by jumping the gun with mistimed announcements that don’t paint the full picture, especially considering its current Road to Zero advertising campaign, which is irksome and ireful in its removal from reality.

All the best,

Gavin Myers