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Featherston: The fast and the furious

Zane Edhouse says speeding drivers on SH2 are an accident waiting to happen. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Elderly man too scared to pull out of driveway

SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI
[email protected]

Authorities have been slow to act as drivers speed through Featherston’s residential area.

Zane Edhouse has lived at the edge of Featherston on State Highway 2 for about a year.

“I’ve rung *555 once a day for months with no response,” he said, “You ring that number for a reason.”

He has been increasingly concerned about the speed drivers are entering and leaving the town on SH2, near the Boundary Rd intersection, from the 50km to 100km speed signs.

“It’s not one or two cars speeding; it’s every second car,” Edhouse said, “It’s 24 hours a day.”

“They all build up the speed from down at the bridge there … everyone’s pissed off from following someone slow over the hill.”

Drivers heading south were just as bad, he said.

“You get the repeat offenders every morning. They all know there’s never ever any cops there.”

Edhouse had contacted South Wairarapa District Council, Waka Kotahi, and the police to complain about the speeding but had gained little traction on the issue.

“Everyone passes the buck.”

He had been told the council were powerless as Waka Kotahi owned the road, he said. Waka Kotahi had told him to provide feedback online and that consent for a new speed limit could take two years.

Police had set up a speed camera van only once, Edhouse said. He had seen a few marked police cars park in the area, but never for very long.

“I got more traction through 111 because they actually log it as a job,” he said.

“They’ll come to sit there for three minutes, everyone slows down, no tickets, and they bugger off.”

Buses are stopping on the other side of the intersection where it is safer, instead of at this bus stop.

Edhouse said the Boundary Rd intersection was also used as a school-bus stop and said it was “only a matter of time” before a vehicle rear-ended the bus.

“That should be double yellow lines,” he said, “It’s on the sharpest knife-edge it could be here.”

He would like to have the 50km and 70km zones start further out of town, so drivers had slowed down by the time they reached the residential area.

“It’s everything – log trucks, sheep trucks, boats, trailers, old people, young people,” he said.

“I know an old guy down the road, and he hardly drives anymore because he doesn’t want to pull out into that speed.”

Another deterrent would be to put a speed camera in the area, he said.

“You go over to Hutt Valley, and they’ve got speed cameras everywhere. In Wainui, there are three speed cameras within 2km.”

Nearby, a new subdivision was under construction. It would be accessed through the Boundary Rd intersection, and Edhouse said the situation would only worsen.

Ange Kalogeropoulos had lived on Boundary Rd for 15 years.

“Over the last five years or so, it’s just gotten worse,” she said.

“It’s terrifying for us residents having to turn in.”

Kalogeropoulos said speed was also her primary concern.

“It’s just in both directions. They’re gunning it, absolutely gunning it.

“It’s like the 100k sign is a target.”

She put the increase in speed down to Wairarapa’s increasing population, as well as a disregard for the small town.

“I think there’s still that mentality when passing through town, that it’s just Featherston.”

She could hear trucks using their heavy engine brakes from her house, which was not along SH2. While it was good to know they were braking, it should be happening before the 70km zone, Kalogeropoulos said.

“It used to be 70 because it wasn’t a hugely populated part of the road.”

Although a roundabout could slow speeders, she acknowledged it might cause congestion. “A little turning lane would be nice.”

“It’s just a shame that it feels like it’s going to take a horrific, tragic accident for anything to change.”

A police spokesperson said people were expected to drive safely within the legal limit.

“Depending on the conditions, that may be slower than the limit,” the spokesperson said.

“Road safety is something everybody must take responsibility for. Every person getting behind the steering wheel needs to take ownership of their safety and that of their passengers.”

The spokesperson did not confirm whether there were any concerns about safety on this particular stretch of road.

New Zealand Police could not tell the Times-Age about complaints made and any action taken without a request under the Official Information Act, as the information was not readily available.

A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said the agency was already undertaking a speed review on SH2 from Masterton to Featherston.

There had been a “high number” of crashes on SH2. Although exact figures for this stretch of road were not readily available, there had been 488 crashes on SH2 from Masterton to Featherston from January 2010 to December 2019. Four people were killed, and 28 were seriously injured.

A series of drop-in sessions were held in Featherston, Greytown, Carterton, and Masterton late last year for public submissions on speed limits along SH2 from Masterton to Featherston. Edhouse had spoken at the Featherston meeting.

Director of regional relationships Emma Speight said about 500 people attended the sessions.

“The majority of the feedback focused on the speed review as well as suggestions for highway improvements such as roundabouts, better visibility at intersections and safer pedestrian facilities.”

Waka Kotahi planned to construct more raised pedestrian crossing platforms, like the one in Carterton, along SH2 this year.

“We will use the insights along with additional technical analysis to determine what the safe and appropriate speeds are for SH2 between Masterton and Featherston and come back to the community to formally consult on this later this year.”

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