Minding your bees and butterflies

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJuly 2, 2021

Admittedly, I don’t know much about the fair town of Nelson. I’ve been there once, and it seemed to be in an all right state – as it should be, considering its council has found the time and money to ‘beautify’ a residential street with picnic tables and bees and butterflies painted on the road.

When you’re concerned with that sort of thing, you must be doing all right in every other area of running a successful city…

Two days ago, Stuff reported: “Tipahi Street in Nelson’s south is part of the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Streets for People project, seeing bright artwork on the road, picnic tables, speed humps, increased signage and thin tubular bollards used as an initiative to improve safety.”

The project, we’re told, is a nationwide fund that aims “to support communities to shape their towns and streets in ways that allow more people to move around safely and create interesting spaces for people to enjoy”.

When you’re concerned with that sort of thing, you must be doing all right in every other area of running a successful roads and transport agency…

There are so many issues to unpack here that I’m not exactly sure where to start. And the dumbfoundedness gets worse when you look at the pictures of the finished product.

The first question is, why on earth is the agency fronting money for such projects when main arterial routes in the wider area are falling apart? Stuff reports Waka Kotahi funded 90% of the trial costs, with the council contributing $77,000 to the changes. By our maths, that puts the total bill at around $750,000. Speedhumps, signage and bollards are fair enough, but even with some paint on the road and a picnic table, that seems absurd.

Then there’s the question of how painting a road with colourful bees and butterflies, joined by distracting broken white lines – of all things – can even be permissible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely strict regulations dictate the road markings of New Zealand? And surely the NZTA – of all entities – is aware of them? I only have the pre-Covid-induced-mindlessness 2019 issue road code at hand, so maybe the section on road markings has been updated to include bees and butterflies?

In all honesty, my first reaction when reading about all this was that, more than anything else, it’s a dangerous distraction. Neither drivers nor pedestrians should be distracted by such things when using the road. And exactly what paint has been used? There’s more than a chance that when it’s endured a bit of grease and grime and rain starts to fall, someone will skid off the road. Given the artwork takes pride of place on a bend in the road, it’s almost a sure bet. Watch how quickly it all disappears after the first crash happens.

By all accounts, the locals aren’t too pleased either. Says Stuff: “But some locals say the recent additions are an eyesore and do more harm than good.”

Of course, anyone with a modicum of common sense will know what this boils down to – a bit of frivolity to make pretty over here and distract from serious splitting seams over there.

Window-dressing at its best.

Take care out there (and mind the butterflies).

Gavin Myers
Assistant editor