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Council shines light on safety

After several years of pursuing safety improvements for Martinborough’s Town Square pedestrian crossings, the town’s elected members look set to finally gain some traction on the issue this week.

South Wairarapa District Council’s [SWDC] Infrastructure and Community Services Committee meets today to discuss the installation of lighting on pedestrian crossings in the district, starting with Martinborough.

Under current regulations, pedestrian crossings must be illuminated during hours of darkness, unless a particular crossing will generally not be used at night.

The district currently has nine pedestrian crossings that are in breach of this rule.

There are six unlit crossings in Martinborough [including the four linking Martinborough Square to surrounding streets], one in Featherston, and two in Greytown.

The council report to the Infrastructure and Community Services Committee states the estimated cost to upgrade the lighting on all SWDC crossings is $500,000.

If the SWDC’s recommended option is agreed on, work would begin on affected Martinborough crossings in the 2023/24 financial year using funds from the council’s Infrastructure Contributions fund, of which there is $3.8 million available.

The council would then apply to Waka Kotahi’s next Land Transport Plan for the work needed at Greytown and Featherston crossings.

This work could begin as soon as 2024/25 and would be 51 per cent funded through Waka Kotahi.

Discussions on safety improvements at Martinborough crossings took centre stage at SWDC’s last meeting of 2022.

Martinborough Community Board member Mel Maynard said many residents have experienced near-misses at the town’s crossings due to poor visibility and bad driving.

“I have had a community member with a very distraught grandchild come see me after a near-miss at the Oxford St crossing at the Square when he was on his scooter.

“His grandfather asked me if one of his mokos has to die before council will do anything.

“Does somebody’s child have to die before anything happens?” Maynard said.

“We are a small town and a small community. The likelihood of the driver and the person injured knowing each other is really high. It can destroy a close-knit community like we have here.”

At the same meeting, Martinborough Ward councillor Aidan Ellims said lighting at the Square’s pedestrian crossings needs to be installed “as soon as possible within the 2023 work programme”.

“If the matter is further delayed, I think there is a risk to our residents under health and safety, but there is also a reputational risk to council.”

Mayor Martin Connelly agreed it is “a serious health and safety risk, and we would be negligent not to move on this as quickly as possible”.

The Martinborough Community Board has also suggested that standalone solar-powered lights could be installed to improve pedestrian safety in the Square.

According to the council report, the advantages of this option over the recommended one is that it is “relatively affordable [$60k-120k]”, can be done quickly, and is not reliant on the Square’s currently compromised electrical power supply. Existing lighting in the Square is partly inoperative owing to a fault in the underground electrical cabling.

“The disadvantage of this approach is that there will still be non-compliant pedestrian crossings in the district, and many of the same considerations and process requirements will need to be considered again in the future when upgrading the other non-compliant crossings, resulting in inefficiencies,” the report said.

The Infrastructure and Community Services Committee meets at 10am in Martinborough today.


    Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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