Kawarau bridge concerns become reality

The Kawarau Falls Bridge. Photo: Peter Dowden
The Kawarau Falls Bridge. Photo: Peter Dowden
Three weeks after a Jacks Point woman raised her concerns about poor night-time visibility on and near the new Kawarau Falls bridge, her husband was first on the scene of a serious crash there.

The woman, who does not want to be named, emailed a senior manager at the NZ  Transport Agency  on June 19 urging the agency to install reflective markers, or "cats-eyes", and overhead lighting on the bridge and its southern approach.

The sweeping  $22million bridge, on State Highway 6 between Frankton and the Kelvin Peninsula, opened in May last year.

On Wednesday night, her husband and son were first on the scene of the 9.20pm crash, which occurred a few metres from the bridge's southern end.

Police say a 7-year-old child in one of the vehicles underwent surgery yesterday after being flown to Dunedin Hospital.

The woman said her husband stayed with the injured teenage driver of the other car until he was taken by ambulance to Lakes District Hospital, then visited the young man's parents to tell them what had happened.

It was clear the northbound vehicle, containing the injured child and at least two other people, was on the wrong side of the road at the time of impact, she said.

In her email to agency  senior project manager Simon Underwood last month, the woman said it was hard to see the painted road markings on the bridge and its southern approach at night, and they were "not visible at all" when the road was wet.

She asked that cats-eyes be installed as soon as possible, and the agency consider installing overhead lighting from the Peninsula Rd turn-off to the bridge's northern end - a distance of about 800m.

Mr Underwood replied there were "a few things we need to work through in closing out the project", including "better night time delineation".

"I can't say the `what' and `when' just now, but it is something recognised as needing attention," he wrote.

The woman said it was "ludicrous" to spend so much money on a new bridge, but not install proper safety features.

"The issue is the NZTA haven't really finished the job."

She and her family used it several times a day, often at night, and she did not want them and their friends to be put at unnecessary risk.

Agency  maintenance contract manager for Central Otago Mark Stewart said  "highway delineation does not appear to be the reason" for the crash.

The agency would begin installing raised reflective pavement markers on the highway from Frankton's BP roundabout to the Peninsula Rd turnoff, including the bridge, from today. "Centreline reflective markers have been programmed to be installed on the bridge and this is now occurring."

Mr Stewart said the bridge's lanes were separated by a double centreline to keep opposing traffic further apart, and it was "much wider than many other two-lane bridges in Otago".

Sergeant Simon Matheson, of Queenstown,  said the injured child was one of at least three occupants of one vehicle.

They were New Zealand citizens but from "out of town".

The male driver of the other vehicle, a Queenstown resident, was kept overnight in Lakes District Hospital for observation after sustained bruising to his chest. 


Yeah, but to be fair, the transport agency can't justify spending money on a road that hasn't had some injuries on it. After a few injuries and maybe a fatality or two, then you can build a proper business case.
Makes perfect sense if you are in a Monty Python sketch.