Traffic signs damage safety issue

A spate of vandalism to road signs in Southland Province is causing serious concern in Southland District Council.

Senior Roads Engineer Rob Hayes said it was not just the cost or inconvenience that set off the council’s alarm, but the serious safety concern the damage was creating.

“There are a certain percentage of signs that have significant safety implications with their removal, such as stop signs, speed notices, turn notices, single lane bridges.”

Advance warning signs were important because they alerted drivers to changing conditions, such as changing from seal to gravel.

Mr Hayes believed serious crashes had only been avoided so far because many drivers traveling at night were locals who knew the roads well.

Most people would probably regret waking up in the morning to find their removal of the sign overnight had caused a terrible accident, he said.

Council records showed the 11,030 sign repairs completed since 2019 had cost ratepayers nearly $200,000.

The figures included wear and true accidental damage, but vandalism was an ongoing network-wide problem, he said.

It was the unnecessary cost in an already tight budget that created further frustration with council staff.

“We suspect the vast majority is targeted vandalism.”

The council frequently found clusters of damage in specific areas or roads.

Mr. Hayes believed much of the damage happened between Thursday and Saturday nights on the network.

While the problem of vandalism was not new, the increase in recent months was beginning to cause a huge repair cost for the council.

Street signs in Te Anau Township were also recently vandalized.

Overseeing 4961 km of roads, the council managed the second largest overall road network in the country and the largest unsealed road network.

Staff were immediately dispatched to any safety related sign damage resulting in additional costs to the council.

The vandalism was reported to the police.

Southern District Traffic Police Superintendent Inspector James Ure said anyone caught deliberately damaging road signs would likely be charged.

“In the event of a serious injury or fatality, we expect those responsible for damaging these safety signs to be fully investigated.”

— Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.

From: Toni McDonald

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