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Monday, April 22, 2024
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Accident waiting to happen

By Hayley Gastmeier

The stretch of road where a honeymooning tourist was killed is too narrow, the speed limit is too high, and the open drains running alongside it are dangerous, residents say.

Residents of Shooting Butts Rd are now calling for urgent measures to be taken to make the rural Martinborough road safer following the death last week.

But the South Wairarapa District Council, which is responsible for the gravel road, says it meets design standards.

Last Thursday morning Douglas Dietz was found dead behind the wheel of his rented Toyota Estima, which had ploughed nose first into one of the roads culverts.

The crash happened sometime the previous night.

Mr Deitz was on his honeymoon, with his wife telling police he had gone to see the stars but had never returned.

Police say the 29-year-old was not wearing a seat belt.

Margaret Griffiths, who has lived on the road for eight years, says the road needs immediate improvements.

“That road needs to be looked at seriously in terms of safety for the public,” she said.

“The road is so narrow in certain parts and culverts etc are very close to the edge of the road, there is very little room to pull off.”

Last year Mrs Griffiths crashed near where Dietz was killed.

“I was travelling from the White Rock Rd end . . . and the wheels on my little car unfortunately got into the gravel on the side of the road and the rest is history.”

She was not injured, but her car was written off.

“I just missed going into the culvert that the poor guy went into. I was very, very lucky.”

Mrs Griffiths lives on the corner where Shooting Butts Rd bends at a right angle.

She said people often took the corner “far too quickly and end up in the ditch”, and on one occasion a vehicle went through her property’s fence.

She and her husband had submitted requests to SWDC to make the road safer, she said.

“We have been trying for years to get the council to do something about it.”

Another resident of the road, Alex Beijen, said he knew of at least “three cars that have rolled” on the road in the last five years.

“There’s constantly cars losing control down there – you can tell from the skid marks.”

After assisting vehicles “out of the ditch” numerous times, Mr Beijen has “collected a lot of tools and implements” for the job.

He said tourists visiting the area were often directed to walk the Rapaki Hillside track, accessible from where the road bends.

“[SWDC] are encouraging people to go down there but they have kept the road a 100kmh zone and they won’t seal it.

“For the last 10 years I have been putting in submissions to the council when they do their annual sealing budget to do something about Shooting Butts Rd or someone is going to die.”

Mr Beijen said he has had many near misses with cyclists and other cars using the road, which is undulated “with many hidden areas”.

“There is nowhere to go because it’s shingle and there is a culvert on either side. It’s been an accident waiting to happen.”

SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said the council received many submissions for the sealing of unsealed roads each year, some of which were for Shooting Butts Rd.

He said the council had a policy of sealing just 1km of unsealed road each year as the cost was not subsidised by NZTA.

When asked whether the road had needed grading Mr Crimp replied: “We assessed the road two weeks ago to ascertain whether it needed grading and the assessment was that it did not”.

However, Mr Crimp later told the Times-Age the road was graded earlier this week “as part of the normal routine grading cycle” and “not as a result of the accident”.

“We are saddened by this incident, any fatality is a cause of concern for us and we take the issues seriously.”

He said the road met safety standards.

“All roads in the district are designed to meet certain standards and these standards include safety.

“Shooting Butts Road meets these design standards.

“We will of course take note of any reports that arise out of this incident.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. There are other rural roads in the Wairarapa where councils have dug deep ditches on both sides. Probably done for flooding situations but they are too deep and there are no warnings. When constructing the ditches they have not retained the pull off areas which is another safety concern.

  2. We found out this morning that the deceased was a friend of nieces of ours in America. From what I’ve read here about the history of that road, it sounds like your local council couldn’t care less about community safety. Couldn’t be bothered even to change the speed limit on a very dangerous road. local government is meant to fix problems like this quickly. It is a function they are there to perform. Turf those complacent, entitled, slackers out.

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