Fur seal pups and motorcyclists benefit by additional guardrail Kaikōura

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
May 29, 2024 |
Ryan Sutherland, of NZTA, on the ground with a fur seal pup.
Ryan Sutherland, of NZTA, on the ground with a fur seal pup.

A stretch of coastline at Kaikōura has become a safer place for both fur seal pups and road users after a joint effort by NZ Transport Agency,
Department Of Conservation and  Massey University.

A lower band of protective guardrail has been added to existing guardrail at eight sites along the coastline in recent weeks.

The sites were among those identified as being high risk for fur seal pups getting onto SH1 in a study published by Massey University PhD student Alasdair Hall.

The NZTA team, led by Jessica Swift and supported by Carol Bannock, were keen to do what they could to manage the risk to road users and fur seals by safely
separating seals from the highway and fast-moving traffic.

By combining DOC’s findings on where fur seals were most likely to be hit by vehicles on SH1 and NZTA’s ongoing highway maintenance programme, eight stretches of coast were identified where a lower-level guardrail could be retrofitted to existing higher rails. This would stop seals getting onto the road.

The lower-level guardrail is used in many other places on New Zealand highways primarily to protect motorcyclists from sliding under the guardrail in the event of a
crash or getting trapped in the guardrail fence.  This type of protective railing also increases safety for all road users not just motorcyclists.

The aim was to get the additional guardrail installed in time for the late autumn/winter period when pups are most likely to be killed on the road. Teams
from DOC and NZTA worked closely together to confirm site locations, length of guardrail needed (1.2km) then get a fencing contractor and the work underway.

By early May, the additional, lower guardrail had been installed at all eight sites. During a site visit by DOC and the NZTA project team during the installation of the
lower-level guardrails, seven dead pups were counted in two small stretches of the road. Had the guardrail been in place a week earlier, they would likely not have
made it onto the road and been killed.

Protective guardrail

Protective guardrail

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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