While current upgrades to a major roundabout in Levin are causing hold-ups, the town is lucky to have it in the first place. A former Levin identity lobbied hard and dug deep into his own pockets to have it built in an effort to save lives. Leo Cooney reports.
The intersection of Queen Street and Cambridge Street in Levin was once a notorious accident hot spot and a major cause of concern for the town in the 1970s.
The late Jack Lines (MBE), alarmed after a number of serious accidents - some fatal - at the intersection, began to lobby what was then the Levin Borough Council for a new roundabout.
At that time, roundabouts were a new thing for New Zealand.
Lines, who would later become Deputy Mayor of Horowhenua, persuaded the council to have a traffic flow survey done.
Unfortunately, the results did not meet the criteria of the time of 1400 vehicles a day that was need to justify the expense, so the proposal was shelved.
Some 10 years later, in 1984, Cr Lines spoke out again on the need to redesign the intersection. He told council he would donate $5000 of his own money towards the cost of the project.
There was a catch, though. He would only pledge the money if the work was completed in that financial year.
Cr Line contended that traffic volumes should not be the sole criteria for such a project and his resolve had been hardened by comments from scores of drivers, including traffic officers, that a roundabout needed to be put in.
To put the $5000 donation into perspective, it would be the equivalent of $50,000 in today's money.
After negotiating with the National Roads Board (NRB) it was agreed that the NRB would contribute $28,000, which represented half the cost the roundabout and the full cost of lighting.
The roundabout was reported to cost $12,000, so the cost to the ratepayer was to be $6000.
But with Lines' pledge of $5000, the burden on ratepayers was just $1000.
The roundabout was officially opened on Thursday, March 21, 1985, by Mayor Jack Bolderson and councillors AJH Alen, EM Bolitho, BJ Molloy, RHL Campbell Jack Lines and Borough Engineer TR Green.
Mayor Bolderson commented at the time that even though the lanes were not yet marked, the new roundabout seemed to be working and pointed out that the centre was larger than normal, to force a change of direction the traffic entering it.
The Queen Street - Cambridge Street roundabout has reduced accidents remarkably since it was built 35 years ago.
Last Saturday, March 31, marked 35 years since the inaugural opening of the roundabout.
It is appropriate that the current council, once the current upgrade complete, is to rededicate the naming of the roundabout as the Jack Lines Memorial Roundabout,
Lines was an outstanding man. He was a borough councillor, deputy mayor, Rotarian businessman and visionary. He was awarded an MBE for service to the community in 1988. He died after a short illness in 1993.
He served on the Levin Borough council from 196 until 1986 and he always topped the polls at election time. He was Deputy Mayor for three years. He also served on many Borough Council committees, such as Gas, Finance, Fire Board and Abattoir.
Gas was his interest and he chaired that committee for 15 of the 18 years he served on it, and was heavily involved in connecting Levin town to the main high pressure natural gas line from Kapuni to Wellington.
It meant much cleaner and safer burning gas for Levin and at a cheaper rate.
There was remembrance plaque erected by the roundabout in 2016 by the Horowhenua District Council, in memory of Lines and his commitment to the community.
Current Horowhenua Deputy Mayor Jo Mason said the plaque was in safe keeping and would be rededicated once the work was complete.