'Enough is enough'.
That was the resounding message from whānau and local community members following a tragic accident on Tuesday when a young boy was hit by a truck along State Highway 10 near Awanui.
The incident occurred at Kareponia, 4km out of Awanui, during the busy school drop-off time and in an area where multiple children have to cross a dangerous strip of highway each day to get home.
Witnesses said it appeared the boy ran on to the road with his back turned toward the oncoming vehicle when he was struck.
A number of emergency services attended the incident, with the 11-year-old boy taken by ambulance in a critical condition to Kaitaia Hospital, before being transferred via helicopter to Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital.
The boy's whānau organised a blessing at the site of the accident yesterday morning, with local iwi, Kareponia marae representatives and other community members in attendance.
Local police, together with Taitokerau Border Control closed the stretch of State Highway 10 between Kumi and Church Rds from 10am for about an hour to allow for the blessing to go ahead safely.
More than 100 people turned out and spoke openly about their frustrations and mamae (hurt) for the boy and his whānau.
One of the boy's cousins, Lyla-Blue Paparoa (21) said it shouldn't have to take something so serious before something was done about the area.
"I'm angry and upset for my whānau who have been through so much already and I don't understand why it has to take something like this before people start paying attention," Paparoa said.
"This is not something new to this area, for years whānau have been getting injured, myself included.
"I was 5-years-old when I was hit by a car and broke my arm. My aunty was also injured badly and one of my other cousins was hit three years ago.
"That's a long time to be fighting for the speed to be reduced here and it makes you think, when will it be enough? Are we not enough?"
Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu CEO Anahera Herbert-Graves also spoke on behalf of local iwi and said she too was angry nothing had been done to make the road safer for whānau.
"We have been working with Waka Kotahi [NZ Transport Agency] on advancing plans to lower the speed limit on Kareponia Hill for a number of years now," Herbert-Graves said.
"We need the speed limit to come down and for safe bus lanes to be established on the highway as a matter of urgency so that our tamariki can be kept safe.
"This cannot continue - there must not be any more accidents on this hill. Enough is enough!"
Councillor Felicity Foy and Abundant Life School principal Mark Tan - both locals - expressed their dismay at what had occurred and were frustrated how other areas in the region had seen a reduction of speed limits and questioned why this particular area had not.
The current speed limit along the Kareponia strip is 100km/h which, according to residents, is often exceeded, even when children are around.
In an attempt to protect their children, some whānau have resorted to creating makeshift signs to encourage drivers to slow down, while one person has erected a homemade fence on her driveway where cars often conduct U-turns.
Last year NZTA dropped a proposal to reduce the limit from 100km/h to 80km/h between Taipa and Awanui with a 60km/h limit between Kareponia and Mahimaru marae.
The agency instead came up with a new proposal making use of temporary speed limits and illuminated warning signs over a shorter stretch of highway between Awanui and Kaingaroa.
In November 2020, Waka Kotahi said, in a statement regarding the decision and after considering the feedback and making further investigations, it found that creating a permanent 60km/h speed limit along (nearly) 4km of SH10 between Mahimaru marae and Kareponia marae, would not provide the best safety outcomes for road users.
In response to Tuesday's incident, Waka Kotahi Te Tai Tokerau me Tāmaki Makaurau Regional Relationship director Steve Mutton said his thoughts were with the whānau and friends of those involved in the crash.
"Any death or serious injury on our roads has a traumatic effect on whānau, friends and communities, which is why we are focused on ensuring everyone can get where they are going safely and efficiently," Mutton said.
"Waka Kotahi has been actively working together with iwi from Kareponia and others who live in Awanui and Kaingaroa on how we can improve safety on the roughly 7km stretch of road between to the two areas, including the scene of yesterday's crash and are grateful to all of those who have provided feedback.
"We have considered a number of safety interventions including safer speeds, electronic variable speed signs and other measures which could assist in preventing crashes happening, or if a crash does occur, then reducing the level of harm to those involved.
"An announcement on the outcomes is imminent and a hui to share the changes was already scheduled with iwi prior to Tuesday's crash, ahead of Waka Kotahi sharing the outcomes more widely with other key partners and communities."
Far North Police Sergeant Nigel Turnbull was present at Tuesday's accident scene and Wednesday's blessing and said as a local, he too was in support of the whānau's campaign to make the road safer for everyone.
"It's good the whānau had the opportunity to raise their concerns here today which are genuine and real," Turnbull said.
"There have been accidents and injuries at this stretch in the past, so it's not an emotional, reactive approach the whānau have taken, they have a very measured and factual basis for their concerns.
"I do hope they're successful in achieving a reduced speed through here."
The boy injured in Tuesday's accident is said to be in a stable but serious condition.