Lou Hay's emotional plea to stop Te Mata night attraction

By Morgan Tait

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A grieving mother has made an emotional plea for night time closure, barrier arms and lighting on Te Mata Peak Rd - measures she says would have saved her 19-year-old son's life.

Tom Angus Hay was killed in January when his car plunged 150 metres from the steep road that leads to the popular attraction.

The ex-Havelock North High School student would have started a viticulture degree at Lincoln University in Christchurch this month had appropriate safety precautions been taken on the narrow, winding road, said his mother, Lou Hay.

"I don't want Tom's death to be in vain," she said.

"I don't want another family to go through this. It's just a treacherous road and there has to be some solution to stop this from happening again."

Mrs Hay will meet the Te Mata Park Trust Board to discuss her concerns at their next meeting in April.

"It's not the only place in New Zealand or in the world that is closed at night due to risk factor," she said.

"It is just so well known that so many young people go up there at night, it's an attraction and it's a dangerous attraction for them. I feel very strongly about this, that something has to be done."

The board's chairman, Bruno Chambers, said Mrs Hay's concerns were being taken seriously.

"We are aware it is a situation we need to look at," he said. "I am cautious not to pre-empt anything that might come out of the coroner's report but, obviously, it's a very serious situation and we are keen to look into ways it doesn't happen again."

In the past, the road remained open due to the Peak House restaurant that operated near the top of the peak. The restaurant is now closed.

Mr Chambers said the road was ultimately the jurisdiction of Hastings District Council, and he had suggested to Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule that they discuss the concerns.

Mr Yule said an internal council meeting was scheduled for this month to "look at the options".

"We do need to wait until the coroner's report on the tragic death, but on the other side we do need to own up that there are some safety concerns on that road and to need to have a conversation around whether those gates do need to be closed."

He said the local Fire Service had also made requests for the gates to be locked, because of the number of late-night fire call-outs.

Mrs Hay said her son's death had devastated the family and friends.

"It's the shock factor. It's very hard and very sad. He was a very generous, kind person, he had a very quirky sense of humour, he was really excited and happy to be starting university this month and I think that the size of his funeral really explains how much impact he had on people's lives in the short span that he lived."

About 1000 people attended Tom Hay's service at Crestwood Chapel in Hastings.

Mrs Hay expected some people would want the road kept open.

"I know there's going to be bad feedback from people who think 'why should we be stopped from going up there because of this?' But I don't know, we have to solve this.

"As a parent, any parent would not want their child going up there at night. There's not much you can do to help keep each other safe, but just a little thing like closing that place off at night is a huge process of helping keep people safe. It just has to stop."

Hawke's Bay Police Sergeant Ray Kirkby said the crash investigation was still progressing.

In 2010, a 72-year-old Napier man died after his car rolled about 300m. The coroner recommended barriers be installed at the popular tourist spot.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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