Trucking fears voiced

By Mike Barrington

2 comments
A large crowd listens to speakers air concerns about logging-truck crashes on Otaika Valley Rd. Photo / John Stone
A large crowd listens to speakers air concerns about logging-truck crashes on Otaika Valley Rd. Photo / John Stone

A decisive move by Whangarei acting Mayor Phil Halse had people at a public meeting confident action would be taken to reduce logging-truck rollovers.

Nearly 100 people attended the meeting at Maungatapere on Tuesday night to discuss rollovers on Otaika Valley Rd, which runs 9.7km from State Highway 14 at Maungatapere to the Portland turnoff on State Highway 1, about 10km south of Whangarei.

Several logging truck crashes and a fatality on the road last year were followed by rollovers on February 20 and 27 and on August 9 this year - and a truck was believed to have lost logs on the road last week.

Residents, truckies, council officials and police all had their say at the meeting, with nothing resolved after more than an hour of discussion.

Tim Harris, of of Whatitiri, said he had heard a lot about what was needed and what might happen in the future, but he wanted to know what could happen to resolve the problems now.

Mr Halse stepped up to end the impasse by saying the Whangarei District Council members had only a month remaining in office, but that should be enough time to start widening corners and erecting signs lowering speed limits to reduce danger on the road.

He called on the meeting to provide three representatives to discuss local requirements with the council, and Tony King, Barbara Jaques and Selwyn Norris accepted this role.

Earlier, the trio were among several speakers who eloquently expressed residents' fears of truck rollovers.

Mr King said Otaika Valley Rd was being used as a heavy-traffic bypass between state highways and he called on truck drivers to reduce speed and crashes or stick to state highways.

Ms Jaques said she had seen logging truck drivers "taking huge risks, with a can of coke in one hand and a cellphone in the other".

Mr Norris said he had counted 17 trucks in two minutes using Loop Rd at the southern end of Otaika Valley Rd.

Other locals to describe truck danger included Otaika Valley School principal Terry Brock, who said empty logging trucks "flying" across the two one-way bridges by the Loop Rd entrance to the school didn't give way.

And Maungatapere Primary School teacher aide Joanne King said she wanted speed reduced and danger signs erected on corners on the road.

"I don't want your trucks to hit my sons," she told truck industry representative Daron Turner and Hancocks' forestry official Mick Theobald.

The industry pair described existing driver training, drug tests, trailer design and other efforts to improve road safety, but Mr Turner was asked to return his focus to the situation on Otaika Valley Rd when he moved into regional and national logging topics.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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