The owner of a housemoving company has spoken after leaving a trail of destruction from Whangārei's Te Matau ā Pohe lift bridge to Parua Bay.
Police stopped Mick Daly, of Highways Housemovers, about 5am yesterday after he tried squeeze a house across a bridge that was too narrow, allegedly significantly damaging the bridge.
Among the wreckage were four damaged cameras, a totem pole pushed out of alignment and two damaged barrier arms.
Daly's passage also left dirt and bits of house on the road and footpath, and scuffs on the bridge's paintwork.
The damaged bridge could not rise for boats yesterday as Whangārei District Council (WDC) staff rushed to evaluate the damage. It was expected to be operational by sunrise today.
Daly initially denied causing the damage.
"The bridge is meant to be 10 metres wide. We were 9.5m," he said.
The bridge's road lanes are 8.2 metres wide.
Daly claimed the barrier arms, which folded down to stop traffic when the bridge was lifted, were not folding up properly. He said his staff had to hold them back to get the house through. "They don't fold back, that's how they were when we started."
From the bridge, the truck and house's passage was marked by felled road signs.
Between the bridge and Parua Bay, more than 20 signs appeared to have been cut down with a saw. Most were on Whangārei Heads Rd and included those warning motorists of speed restrictions on corners.
A number of tree branches also looked to have been cut down and the trail of damage included significant gouges in the earth bordering the road.
Daly said the signs should be removable so wide loads could pass. He claimed this was the case for signs in other parts of the country.
Initially, Daly said his team simply pushed them over then put them back up.
When told the signs appeared to have been cut with a handsaw, Daly confirmed they had cut the signs but insisted they could - and would - be screwed back together.
The council said that as at 4.30pm yesterday, the signs had not been fixed and it had employed road construction company Fulton Hogan to collect and replace the broken signs.
Northland Transportation Alliance general manager Calvin Thomas said he was "very frustrated" by the damage caused.
"Our responsibility is to provide safe roads and bridges and actions such as those we've seen this morning place the safety of the district's transport users at risk.
"It is every transport operator's responsibility to use those bridges and roads safely and, in the case of over-dimension loads, take responsibility to ensure the route is appropriate and safe for themselves and other users."
He said options to recover costs for the damage were being considered.
Council traffic safety specialist Brendon Tong was "disappointed".
"I would have expected that if they got into this sort of situation, they would have called someone. The bridge team are pretty proud of the site and how we run it."
Whangārei Sergeant Ryan Gray confirmed an investigation had been launched to assess who was liable for the damage and whether charges should be laid.
An New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesman said cutting down road signs was not common practice in house transport and was "inappropriate".