Water torture

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Dave McCoidNovember 19, 2021

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency issued a notice last week about a structurally compromised bridge on the Thames Coast Road – SH25 – at Boundary Creek, about 22km north of Thames itself. Waka Kotahi said it would need to reduce the bridge to a single lane via barriers and signs, and impose a speed limit of 50kph.

SH25 is the main – and only real artery – between Thames, Coromandel and the top of the Coromandel Peninsular. You might argue there is an alternative path to Coromandel via Whitianga, but it more than doubles the journey length from 59km to 127km on a road that’s equally as slow going as the direct route. So ‘Yeah, Na’.

Aside from Coromandel Town, SH25 provides direct access to farms, quarries, forestry, commercial fishing terminals, and endless tourist locations and attractions in the region. Of course, that means absolutely nothing to the government and its merry brigade of bureaucrats.

Such is my level of despondency on the state and maintenance of our roading infrastructure, I actually found elements of the notice quite amusing. Here’s a couple of sentences from it.

“The bridge and deck beams, known together as the superstructure, are ageing due to sea salt spray and need to be replaced.” (Doesn’t time age things, and sea salt decay them? Interesting learning there. Sea and salt are now substitutes for time in the ageing process.)

Then there’s this doozy. “Safety is our number one priority, and we carry out regular inspections to ensure that all state highway bridges in the Coromandel and around New Zealand remain safe at all times.”

Oh, hell yes, you can’t even print your mother’s full name nowadays without including the ‘S’ word in there, just to show the world you’re so vestal like, you’re almost in the running to replace the Pope. Trouble is, Waka Kotahi’s been carrying out safety inspections, for safety reasons to keep everyone safe, by observing the bridge decaying to the point where it’s… unsafe? I mean, it is obviously no longer safe or it would still be a dual carriage at the gazetted speed limit for the road. And let’s not forget, this bridge wasn’t hunky-dory the week before last and then absolutely buggered last week. No, if it’s got to the point where it’s structurally compromised, there must have been clear signs two, three, five years ago?

Yet, the agency just watches and lets it rot while it pours endless money into crap such as ornaments and needless landscaping on other roading projects, guard rails in the most innocuous of places, cycleways, the list in endless.

In a time where our road network is by far the worst it’s ever been, I’ve often wondered what the hell the folk in those double-cab utes with ‘road inspection’ signs on them are doing? At times I’ve been tempted to write ‘They’re all poked’ on a piece of paper and slip it through the driver’s window, just to save them some time.

Of course, the kicker sentence in the whole thing is, “There is no date currently scheduled for the superstructure replacement of the Boundary Creek bridge.” Let’s put that into context. I guess you could call Golden Bay the brother or sister region of the Coromandel. We have a lot in common. The folk there will, of course, advise us that sentence probably means, ‘That’s it. That’s how it’s going to be from now on.’ I mean, they’ve been watching, now for the thick end of half a decade, as a kilometre of their sole lifeline undergoes remediation as a result of an emergency. Our note tells us clearly, there’s no emergency.

The only question I really have at the end of it all? How long are we genuinely going to put up with this shit?

When will we actually get angry enough to do something about our industry’s workplace? You’ve got to take your hat off to Groundswell, really.

All the best

Dave McCoid