Risk and reward

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It’s about to receive a multi-million dollar upgrade, but a safety report reveals there are nine junctions in Queenstown Lakes district more dangerous than the notorious Tucker Beach Road.

A safety assessment on the intersection, completed by Abley Consultants and released under the Official Information Act, shows it’s classed as low-medium risk.

It confirms it was a public push rather than hard evidence that sparked a $6 million safety improvement project.

There are nine intersections in the district at a higher risk, and a whopping 49 at a similar level, according to the report.

The junction has been the subject of a long campaign by nearby residents and Queenstown’s council, with mayor Jim Boult saying it was raised as “an issue of great concern to residents” during the 2016 local government election.

There were 16 crashes within 400 metres of it between July 2012 and June 2017.

One resulted in a serious injury, while another seven resulted in 10 minor injuries.

In May the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) announced a $6 million project to improve safety by building a slip road, accessed via the existing road under Lower Shotover Bridge.

While the data doesn’t indicate major issues with the junction, the consultants do point out that “site observations did uncover several instances of unsafe driver behaviour that have the potential to lead to crashes in the future”.

“These observations, combined with increasing traffic volumes on SH6, provide good motivation to investigate possible safety improvements at the intersection.”

A business case for the project confirms the “views of the Quail Rise residents were the starting point for the project”.

Mayor Jim Boult pushed strongly for the project, campaigning alongside locals.

Boult says it shows the power of a community crusade.

“This was an issue that arose back at the time of the last election, and it was something I campaigned quite widely on, so when I was elected I raised the issue with NZTA, had excellent support from the community, and despite originally a less than enthusiastic response from NZTA, I’m delighted to say they listened, listened to council and listened to the community, and I understand the work is supposed to start this month, which I’m highly delighted about.

“Look, it does demonstrate that, as council have found, if you feel strongly about something, you should continue to push it hard with government agencies.”

An NZTA spokeswoman says three of the nine intersections – SH6/SH8, SH6/Hardware Lane, and SH6/Ballarat Street – have already been “significantly upgraded to improve safety”.

“SH6/Crown Range Road/Arrow Junction was investigated after a fatality crash [in February last year] but found to be generally operating appropriately.

“In the years 2013-2015 there were five non-injury crashes and one minor injury crash reported to police at this intersection. The latest crash, January 16, 2018, was the first serious injury crash in five years with a person taken to hospital.”

Reports released to several other options considered by NZTA before it settled on the slip road.

They include a roundabout, banning vehicles from turning right into Tucker Beach Rd, and installing Rural Intersection Activated Warning Signs.

The slip road was found to be the best long-term option “despite the expected high cost of construction”.

Work on the slip road is expected to start this month – despite future plans for a new link road to Quail Rise from Pak’nSave roundabout.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz