When it comes to the enforcement of council bylaws concerning advertising signs, I am reminded of a well known Shakespeare quote (from the play Hamlet)...."more honoured in the breach than in the observance."
During the last 20 years I've been guilty of erecting dozens of illegal signs to promote concerts, including billboards for my radio show. But I've never got away with it in Stratford.
My most spectacular sign rejection by the Stratford District Council enforcement officer, ironically was a sign promoting the Stratford District Council.
In 2009 the Radio Network (now NZME) at no cost to the council paid for the erection of a billboard advertising council news (on Coast Radio) every Tuesday with Michael Freeman, the then chief executive. The sign was professionally erected by a sign company on the highway as you enter the Stratford District (next to the Stratford Speedway sign).
Just a few kilometres before this location in the South Taranaki District (along SH3) I had similar signs erected, and there were no objections from either the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) or the South Taranaki District Council. But it was a different story for Stratford. My sign, though well-meaning, would require a permit and approval from NZTA. The estimated cost then was $600. Unsurprisingly the sign was removed.
Back In 2009 the Stratford District Council was concentrating on beautifying the district and they didn't want lots of tacky signs everywhere. Fair enough, but I was unimpressed at the time. In retrospect I acknowledge this policy, and its consistent enforcement, has meant that Stratford has far less faded and out of date signs than are seen in their neighbouring districts, South Taranaki and New Plymouth.
This is perhaps cold comfort for the upset Stratford Singers, however. Their professional sign (advertising their upcoming show Hooked on a Feeling) on the fence of the corner of Pembroke Rd and Broadway has also fallen foul of the Stratford bylaw. According to the relevant bylaw "such signs are to be located not closer than 50m from an intersection..." The sign does not meet this requirement and so has to be removed.
The group don't object to the bylaw itself, but rather what they see as the unfairness. During the last three years numerous signs have been affixed to this high-profile fence (including the Stratford Singers and Stratford on Stage) and they were not required to be removed, making this current decision seem unfair.
It is timely to remember that in the last nine months there have been a several nasty crashes at intersections along SH3 going to Stratford. Furthermore, NZTA is funding safety improvements to several rural roads in the district which have historically had a disproportionate number of accidents and fatalities, such as Opunake Rd. The other factor, worthy of mention (and which may be behind the perceived extra strict of enforcement of the signs bylaw) is there is now a huge electronic notice board which advertises non-profit group events for free.
I have the utmost respect for umpires and compliance officers. They have an unenviable job, and we certainly need them. But they will never be popular.
As an aside, members of the Stratford Singers have pointed out to me that a political candidate's election hoarding on the intersection of Page St and Broadway is not compliant in their view, plus a few other signs.
In closing, I am reminded of the title of my favourite Shakespeare play: "Much Ado About Nothing."
Bryan presents the Hokonui Breakfast Show every weekday morning. Listen to Hokonui in Stratford on 88.2FM.