Crash course in te reo

By Kathryn Powley

The shared-space concept in Lorne St hasn't been kind to the letter-seat outside the library. Photo / Doug Sherring
The shared-space concept in Lorne St hasn't been kind to the letter-seat outside the library. Photo / Doug Sherring

Everyone knows the Maori language has taken a battering, but in downtown Auckland, a seat in the form of the word "reo" has been put near the middle of the road outside the central library and is now scraped and bent out of shape because of vehicles banging into it.

The Auckland Council spent $95,000 buying the seat and $10,000 installing it.

And now it is likely to have to pay even more to move it.

The three letters, about 0.5m high, and are set well out on Lorne St, a thoroughfare that has been converted into a "shared space" - a paved zone used by cars and pedestrians.

The letters have cast bronze tops and sides supported by a galvanised steel frame. The bronze is a close colour match to the paving that surrounds it.

Council spokesman Glyn Walters said two cars were known to have hit the structure, in August last year and September this year.

But judging by the shape it was in, and considering reports from onlookers, there have been more crashes.

Gil Song, who works in an office overlooking the Lorne St seat, was having coffee at a cafe in the library this winter when he saw a scooter smash headlong into one end of the seats.

"He was delivering food or something and he crashed straight into the 'O'. He braked but he was going too fast." Song said the letters were hard to see.

"I always wonder why it's here," said Song, and he would support having it shifted.

Another office worker, who asked not to be named, told the Herald on Sunday he'd seen a car slam straight into the "R" early one morning. In that light, he said, it was extremely difficult to see the letters.

Walters said the seat was installed in 2011 just before the Rugby World Cup. The council was now assessing the cost of repairing or moving it.

"Shared spaces are a new part of Auckland's city centre public space experience and have so far been well received by the public and local businesses."

Meanwhile, next month the Auckland City Council plans to install coloured planter pots in Lorne St outside the abandoned St James Theatre.

- Herald on Sunday

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