by Al Williams
Burkes Pass residents are witnessing “nail-biting stuff” as fears for safety grow about rising volumes of traffic speeding through their small town.
Burkes Pass Residents Association member Jane Batchelor has raised concerns with authorities, specifically about an increasing volume of traffic coming from Tekapo and what she sees as road safety concerns.
Mrs Batchelor would like the speed limit through the town dropped from 80kmh to 50kmh.
“There have been concerns about road safety issues in Burkes Pass for years, due to its situation on a bend and a gradual downhill slope when arriving from the Tekapo end, where there is no visual warning that the township is there,” Mrs Batchelor said.
The documented increase in tourist numbers to the Mackenzie and the growth of destination shops and accommodation on either side of the highway through the township in recent years had attracted a “marked build-up in camper vans and other visitors manoeuvring within the town, with daily occurrences of near misses and dangerous traffic behaviour”, she said.
“Add to the mix the increased number of pedestrians crossing the highway and it becomes nail-biting stuff.”
The residents association had presented its concerns to authorities, including a proposal to move a radar speed sign site to give advance notice to motorists travelling from Tekapo.
“Ideally, we would like a dedicated [permanent] radar speed sign or some sort of electronic indicator of potential hazard.
“There are other strategies seen elsewhere, such as warning ‘slow’ signs marked on the seal and signage of various sorts, but ideally some measure such as a lowered speed limit would be the best option.”
NZ Transport Agency traffic and safety manager Tony Spowart limit to 50kmh was restricted to urban areas where there was “significant commercial activity and residential development”.
“That is not the case with Burkes Pass,” he said.
Mackenzie District Council roading manager Scott McKenzieroad safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude counters had been placed about three weeks ago across the highway in the township to gauge volumes and speeds of vehicles coming from Tekapo.
That was a result of concerns raised by Mrs Batchelor and the residents association, Mr Naude said.
The counters collected data for about two weeks.He expected to receive the data in the coming days and would present the results to the NZTA for further discussions.