Theft of second safety light 'shattering'

By ROGER MORONEY


The theft of one of two cycle safety lights at the approaches to the Awatoto bridge on State Highway 2, 10 days ago, left New Zealand Transport Authority acting state highway manager Gordon Hart disappointed - but yesterday he said he was now "quite shattered".

He learned the remaining solar-powered light unit had been stolen during the weekend.

"Losing one was bad enough - but now they are both gone," he said, adding that whether the $25,000 units would be replaced or not was now "up in the air".

"If we keep putting them up and they keep getting stolen - if they are not sustainable - then what is the point?" Mr Hart said.

"These are critical safety devices but we can not just keep continually putting them back if this is going to happen."

Arrangements had until yesterday been under way to attain funding from the NZTA budget to replace the first light stolen but that was now effectively on hold.

One unusual aspect to the thefts was that, despite the stretch being a busy one at all hours of the day and night, no one had reportedly seen the highly-visible pole-mounted lights being cut at the base and taken away.

"I can't understand how someone would have that much time to cut through the posts - that is a busy piece of road," Mr Hart said.

The lights had been installed so cyclists could push a button to illuminate signs which told motorists using the narrow bridge that a cyclist was travelling across it. The system had got the thumbs-up from the cycling fraternity.

"This has denied those cyclists the right to have that safety benefit and we can not understand why anyone would want to do that."

Mr Hart said the option of building some sort of strongly fenced security protection around the units was not a simple one.

"Whatever we put out there has to be safe," he said.

Steel fencing or razor-wire deterrents could create a danger.

Mr Hart said the safety issue was a community one and it was up to the whole community to decide if they wanted such devices on their roads.

Police are appealing for any information about the whereabouts of the solar-paneled light units, and want to hear from anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity, or parked vehicles, at the Hastings end of the bridge during the weekend.

Calls can be made to the anonymous Crimestoppers line 0800 555 111.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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