Fluorescent yellow poles with reflective strips on a stretch of treacherous Northland highway have been described as "a Band-Aid on a very big cut" by one roading official.

Motorists travelling on State Highway 1 south of Whangārei would have noticed the yellow poles in the middle of freshly painted double yellow lines yesterday morning.

The poles, just over a metre in height, cover sections of the road between Toetoe Rd and the northern side of Smeaton Hill, and put in place overnight on Wednesday. But, by 10.30am on Thursday, at least seven had been dislodged and were lying in roadside drains.

Regional Transport Committee chairman John Bain inspected the new poles yesterday and was less than impressed, describing them as a "Band-Aid" measure.

Advertisement
Less than 24 hours after being erected safety poles have been knocked over.
Less than 24 hours after being erected safety poles have been knocked over.

"If someone gets out of control these are not going to keep them in their lanes. At the same time, it is an improvement on having nothing at all. If they save the life of one person then they've been worthwhile."

He said it provided a visual separation of the lanes and was a step in the right direction.

But the fact that seven had been dislodged was a concern, Bain said, as they themselves could become a hazard if they flew into a windscreen.

NZ Transport Agency Northland system manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult was not concerned about the poles being knocked off the road. She said there was a permanent fitting on the road for each post but the posts were designed to flex or come off when hit.

"This is to minimise damage to vehicles and property," Hori-Hoult said.

"The flexible safety posts are in the centre of the road and are a safety feature to deter drivers from crossing the centre line, either in error or to overtake other vehicles.

"The fact that they are being hit by vehicles is a sure sign that they are doing their job."

The safety improvements on SH1, first announced last December, include a half metre wide centreline marked with yellow no passing lines on both sides and flexible safety posts with raised reflectors along the centre of the road.

"This will effectively prevent overtaking, reduce the chances of a serious crash and make the road more forgiving of human error," Hori-Hoult said.

New safety measures have seen poles erected in the middle of SH1 south of Whangārei. Photo/ Michael Cunningham
New safety measures have seen poles erected in the middle of SH1 south of Whangārei. Photo/ Michael Cunningham

"These short term improvements are in addition to the ongoing and long term programme of work to provide safer, easier and more reliable journeys between Whāngārei and Te Hana."

The safety poles would cover a 10km stretch of the highway between Toetoe Rd and Springfield Rd where stretches of the road surface was replaced during the summer.

Hori-Hoult said the safety improvements were a short term measure and could be implemented more quickly and at a lower cost than a wire rope barrier.

The improvements would be an effective visual deterrent to drivers crossing the centre line in much the same way as a physical wire rope barrier would.

Between 2012 and 2016, head on crashes accounted for 50 per cent of the 14 deaths and serious injuries on the stretch of road.

Bain said the ideal solution was four lanes for the stretch, which he and other civic leaders lobbied the Government to build, but that has been rejected.