Last minute location change for popular race “distressing and extreme”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Sep 22, 2022 |

A last-minute location change for the popular Takahe2Akaroa Relay has been described as “distressing and extreme.”

The road relay championships normally takes place from the Sign of the Tākahe to Akaroa on October 1st, but it has now been moved to Bottle Lake Forest Park.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency declined the application for a temporary traffic management plan for the Tākahe to Akaroa road relay race due to “significant safety concerns on SH75.”

In a statement, the race organisers said “the T2A course is unavailable due to the evolving road safety regulations which prevented the dedicated and skillful volunteer relay organisers from finding a suitable traffic management solution in time for this year’s event.

Safety is incredibly important to road running events in particular, and we appreciate the efforts made to develop a solution in uncertain circumstances.”

Competitor Cameron Avery said “poor communication [on all sides] had burdened numerous individuals—both financially and emotionally.

How a decision to cancel one of the largest events in the Canterbury region can be left until 14 days before the event is a travesty, and we deserve better.”

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Regional Manager Central and Lower South Island, Peter Brown said “we could not let people run in traffic lanes on the main route between Akaroa and Christchurch, confident that reasonable and adequate measures were in place to keep them and other road users like cyclists safe for this day-long run

Waka Kotahi was not satisfied that the organiser had practical controls to address significant safety concerns, including some raised after the 2021 race by the public and New Zealand Police.

There was at least one verifiable instance of a near miss/ head-on collision in 2021 and other evidence of other near-miss risks on the highway.

Runners and others were at risk on a number of occasions along the winding and hilly route to Akaroa in 2021. 

In recent weeks the speed limit has been lowered to a maximum of 80km/ hour on SH75 and in some sections to 60km/h or lower, however, these speeds are still not survivable by a runner in a head-on event with a vehicle.”

Brown said the organiser’s suggestion that the traffic speed for most of the 50km SH75 route to Akaroa be reduced to 30km/ hour for the ten-hour duration of the race to protect runners is unrealistic and unachievable.

“We have consulted with New Zealand Police and they have agreed there would have been limited driver compliance with the organiser’s proposals over the length of the route and resulted in substantial delays and frustration.”

After last year’s event, Waka Kotahi raised safety concerns with the organiser in response to complaints from the public and NZ Police and advised that changes had to be made if an event in 2022 was to gain support.  However, the traffic management plan for 2022 showed that little had changed. 

The two main proposed changes were not adequate or practicable in the view of Waka Kotahi. 

“Other options to reduce risk to all parties do not appear to have been considered. For example, use of safer off-road options (eg the Little River cycling rail trail from Motukarara), making it a requirement for runners to wear hi-visibility clothing or requiring no parking alongside the road shoulders.

Despite working with the race organiser since November 2021 when the original safety concerns were raised about the 2021 race and regular contact over the past six months, a very similar proposed traffic management plan was submitted on 12 September, 2022, and declined on 13 September.”

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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