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Road worker abuse regarded as ‘part of the job’

Local councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency [NZTA] are reminding drivers in Wairarapa to be patient and respect road workers after an Official Information Act [OIA] request indicated several incidents of contractors being abused in the course of their work.

The OIA response provided by NZTA noted two incidents of abuse last year and one recorded incident in 2024.

“In 2023, two instances of abuse occurred towards road workers in the Wairarapa region,” the OIA states.

“One incident involved a member of the public verbally abusing a road worker, and the second involved another member of the public verbally abusing and then physically assaulting and injuring a road worker.

“In 2024, a driver of a vehicle behaved in a threatening manner that caused a group of road workers in Wairarapa to take evasive action to prevent being struck.”

While there these were the only recorded instances of verbal and physical abuse, the OIA response also noted that feedback from contractors suggests that many less serious incidents are not recorded.

“Unfortunately, abuse towards road workers is commonly regarded as part of the job,” the NZTA response said.

“But we know anecdotally from talking with our contractors that there is an increase in instances such as abusive language, threats of violence, items being thrown at road workers, and drivers ignoring traffic management, which endangers the safety of road workers.”

NZTA is responsible for the maintenance of SH2 and SH53 in Wairarapa, while local councils are responsible for all the other roads across the region.

The Times-Age approached Masterton District Council [MDC], Carterton District Council [CDC], South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC], and Tararua District Council [TDC] regarding whether they are aware of the workers they employ being abused by motorists.

“Abuse of workers is not something we ask our contractors to report on but, anecdotally, we are aware that it is an issue,” MDC roading services manager Kaine Jaquiery said.

“It is never acceptable – our contractors working on roads are doing important work that maintains key council infrastructure.

“Traffic management measures are in place to protect the safety of motorists as well as workers on the road.

“As with anybody doing their job, these workers deserve to be able to get on with their jobs without being subject to abuse of any kind.”

“Abuse of road workers in the Tararua District is an issue at times on our local roads,” TDC alliance manager Daniel Erard said.

“We know anecdotally that it’s a problem and it’s not okay.

“It’s been discussed, and we are in the process of starting to record that data to better understand the prevalence of the issue.”

“Obviously, it is disappointing that this happens at all,” was the extent of the response from CDC, which suggested getting in contact with roading contractor Fulton Hogan, as did SWDC.

When approached, however, Fulton Hogan declined to comment on how widespread the issue is for their workers in the region.

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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