Gorse, there’s a problem – Traffic island weeds thrive amid red tape
Kelly Hodel / Stuff
Hamilton Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor says he is concerned that increased traffic management bureaucracy is contributing to unsightly, weed-infested traffic islands on state highways in Hamilton .
New national safety rules are leaving islands of traffic across the country strewn with weeds and looking like a jungle, with a local leader calling the horrors potentially dangerous.
A jungle-like median on a Hamilton main thoroughfare left so long that a sturdy gorse bush has reached full bloom is the latest case and has the city’s deputy mayor hot under his collar.
It comes on the heels of another leafy oasis in a trunk road median to Nelson Riling residents
Hamilton Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor was alerted to overly intrusive traffic islands on the Waka Kotahi-run national highways that run through and through Hamilton by concerned residents.
* Weed patches on the highway are “disgraced” because safety comes first
* Traffic lights evoked for a dangerous intersection in Palmerston North
* Shannon businesses struggle as potential customers are sent on the road
While the council is busy weeding them out, that has been slowed by what he described as overzealous safety rules.
He says it’s not a good look for city entrances and that unmanaged weeds could potentially reduce driver visibility.
Taylor criticized the extra bureaucracy and advocated more lobbying in Wellington to try to sort things out.
“Are we a confident, ambitious and growing city or are we a ministry that has to wait for approval from head office? asked Taylor, who is running for mayor this year.
Under new rules – introduced in 2020 after three Higgins road workers died in the Bay of Plenty the previous year – site-specific traffic management plans for maintenance must be approved by Waka Kotahi before work can continue.
“These requirements now include additional steps before council staff can work on or near a busy road corridor to ensure the safety of road workers and road users,” said Waikato Cara Lauder, head of Waka Kotahi’s system, in a statement.
While that created more upfront work for councils like, it helped alleviate health and safety concerns, Lauder said. Plans would be approved for 12 months.
“Aesthetics such as roundabout vegetation are secondary to safety concerns.”
Roundabouts and traffic islands on national highways — such as Ōhaupō Rd, Cobham Drive, Cambridge Rd, Morrinsville Rd, Kahikatea Drive and Whatawhata Rd — were affected, Taylor said.
He asks about the fees paid by the council to a consultant to help manage the situation.
Taylor understood that the change meant that the council had to move from an overall management plan for maintenance to multiple, detailed site-specific plans.
This had led to delays, complicated by Covid-19 lockdowns, staff shortages and access to consultants to draw up plans.
Taylor understood that staff were concerned that more complaints about slow or no weed maintenance along national highways could come. He planned to push harder for changes to reduce the bureaucracy involved.
However, a statement provided by the City of Hamilton’s communications team said the council “understands and respects” recent changes related to Waka Kotahi’s safety.
The statement said there are currently no plans to try to get Waka Kotahi to change the rules.
“The new traffic management approach and requirements are intended to ensure the safety of council staff and contractors – as well as all of our road users.”
As to whether the new rules had created any headaches for traffic island maintenance, the release acknowledged some delays in approving national highway work plans within the city limits, but some approvals had been received.
“Staff will continue to work with Waka Kotahi as we roll out our comprehensive plan over the coming months to ensure we stay on track with our safety priorities.”