Praise and perspective 

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 2, 2023

This week we went down to the Hawke’s Bay for the first time since the flooding caused by Cyclone Gabrielle wrought havoc on the region. Even though it’s almost four months later, we were still left speechless.

It’s one thing to see images in the media, being there is quite another. As you make your way along the battered SH5 Napier-Taupo Road, it’s impossible to miss the widespread slips scarring the landscape. Tell-tale signs along small streams and larger river banks indicate the torrent of water that would’ve followed their paths.

Then you drop into Eskdale, where once orchards and vineyards made for a picture-perfect scene as you’d move through the valley along this final stretch of SH5. With that picture still in mind, the devastation comes as a shock to the system. Destroyed homes, wrecked vehicles, mangled rail lines, metre-high deposits of silt blanketing the plantations. It a frightening reminder of mother nature’s destructive capability, and our own fragility.

Some clean-up efforts have begun and despite numerous stop-and-go-controlled roadworks along the affected sections of the Napier-Taupo, traffic flows as freely as it can. At first glance it may not appear so, but we’re told by regular travellers of the road that Waka Kotahi and its contractors have made significant progress in the rebuild.

Of course, while the cyclone damage takes priority and all effort must be directed to recovery at this time, the general state of the road remains poor along many sections of its length. That is still unacceptable, sure, but it’s funny how it becomes easier to look past under current circumstances. Yet while the agency must continue to be held accountable for that deterioration, praise must be given where it is due – and for their current efforts to reinstate and rebuild affected routes, the agency, its contractors, project managers and workers deserve a lot of it.

To the Waikato now, where roadworkers have been subject to abuse they definitely do not deserve. A statement released yesterday about abusive and dangerous behaviour directed by motorists at staff on the SH1 worksite between Horotiu and Taupiri paints a deplorable picture: “In recent months workers have been spat on, verbally abused and threatened after people got out of a car. Last week vehicles drove into live work areas to avoid queuing.”

The worksite is narrowed to one lane in either direction and with reduced speeds and approximately 20,000 vehicles passing through each day, it’s logical traffic will back up as it filters through. Doubtless many readers will have been through that section heading both north and south and while it’s frustrating now, I’m sure many will agree that the road was in need of reconditioning especially to bring it up to the standard expected of an expressway.

With work scheduled to reach completion in May next year, I suspect, sadly, this may not be the last statement the agency issues on the topic.

While I’d like to think those who stoop to such low levels are in the absolute minority of road users it bears repeating that a bit of patience, understanding and respect go a long way. We all get frustrated, but the reason for the works could have been one far more devastating than the ability to travel between cities at an uninterrupted 110km/h.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers