Call for change at scenic route intersections

Staveley stalwart Richie Bruce says the Ashburton Staveley Rd-Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd corner needs a stop sign to prevent further accidents. Photo: Toni Williams
Staveley stalwart Richie Bruce says the Ashburton Staveley Rd-Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd corner needs a stop sign to prevent further accidents. Photo: Toni Williams
Mid Canterbury's rural roads are hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons and residents, often first on the scene, have had enough.

Within days of each other, two crashes at either end of Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd, commonly known as Route 72 or the Inland Scenic Route have resulted in a double fatality and three people taken to hospital, one with serious injuries.

Staveley stalwart Richie Bruce said the intersection at Ashburton Staveley Rd and Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd, near the Staveley Store, was an increasingly dangerous spot.

It was just a matter of time before someone died, he said.

Over the years, there had been numerous accidents at the intersection, the latest involving a van and a ute on June 10.

While police investigations into the crash were ongoing, Mr Bruce understood the van occupants had taken a break at the store, then pulled out on to the highway.

They ended up in the opposite corner ditch after the collision.

Police said one person had been seriously injured and was flown by helicopter to Christchurch Hospital.

''The give way is not working for the number of people pulling in to stop [at the store],'' Mr Bruce said.

He said there was a noticeable increase in the number of tourists taking the scenic route south who were driving after long flights, on unfamiliar roads at unfamiliar speeds.

But the highway was very busy and the visibility along the stretch of road, where the speed limit was 100kmh, was not ideal with a short bend just metres from the corner.

He would like the give way sign replaced with a stop sign to make drivers check the road before pulling out on to it.

Staveley Store duty manager Tia Putaranui agreed and said visibility - and driver complacency - were some of the main issues.

Staff at the shop were often first on the scene.

If the corner was changed to a stop sign, drivers would have more time to see vehicles travelling at speed along the highway, she said.

At the northern end of of the road, Mt Hutt dairy farmer Karl Haywood has started a petition for significant modification of the intersection of Route 72 and State Highway 77, where Darrel and Maria Blair, of Ashburton, died on June 4.

Mr Haywood was one of the first at the crash site.

The intersection, which is the turnoff to Mt Hutt skifield from Route 72, has had many non-fatal accidents and near misses in the past.

The Blairs died after their car and a stock truck, heading north on Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd, Route 72, collided.

Mr Haywood's petition included offsetting Waimarama Rd (SH77) where it meets Route 72 so drivers could not drive straight across the highway to McLennans Bush Rd, the road that leads to Mt Hutt skifield, or putting in flashing lights to alert drivers to the intersection.

More than 280 people had signed his online petition ''Change to the intersection of sh72 & 77'' at

''There have been countless accidents here. It's an accident black spot that needs to be changed. The most important thing is to get something done. Ashburton District Council (ADC) controls Arundel Rakaia Gorge Rd from Rangitata River and north to the intersection of Waimarama Rd and McLennans Bush Rd where the fatality occurred, but has no jurisdiction on the intersection.

''This intersection is under New Zealand Transport Agency [NZTA] jurisdiction so we have no authority to make any improvements. We are always willing to liaise with NZTA where required to improve safety across the district.

''As for the intersection at Staveley, we will be reviewing the intersection, as we do with all sites where we have serious crashes, and will make modifications as required. The time for improvement will be dependent on the results of the investigation.

''As for installing a stop sign, we do have requirements that we have to meet to install it. As drivers can get infringements for not stopping at these, we cannot just install them if they do not meet the requirements [set out by NZTA].

''This intersection will be assessed against these requirements to determine if it meets or does not meet them. A stop sign is often not the best treatment; we have collected information from other stop signs in the district showing very low compliance and very high speeds through stop signs.''

No timeframe was given for this investigation.

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