New Plymouth billboard mocking Waka Kotahi gets taken down

Mystery surrounds a digital billboard placed by an intersection where Waka Kotahi recently finished work.
Mystery surrounds a digital billboard placed by an intersection where Waka Kotahi recently finished work. Photo credit: RNZ

Story by Robin Martin of RNZ 

Waka Kotahi says it has been in communication with the person who installed a digital billboard poking fun at its work at an intersection in New Plymouth.

Waka Kotahi would not identify the person, but said the sign was removed from the road on Monday afternoon.

The billboard, which featured tongue-in-cheek messages about the transport agency, was on a ute near the intersection of Junction Street and State Highway 3.

The intersection was part of a $3 million safety improvement project underway between Junction Street and Burgess Hill.

In a statement, senior project manager Sree Nutulapati acknowledged the project had been subject to delays due to property acquisition and consenting.

"This work will resume later in the year and while details are being finalised for these Junction Street to Burgess Hill improvements, the project has made great progress on other safety improvements.

"We have already delivered 3km of flexible median barriers, at Normanby and near York Road, north of Midhirst - with a further 2.6km due to be installed by mid-year."

Nutulapati did not directly respond to the jibes on the digital billboard, which included a line about "quality roading workmanship", illustrated with a photo of a pothole.

"This digital board does not belong to New Zealand Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi. We understand the board was removed yesterday afternoon.

"We're aware of the digital signage and we have been in communication with the person who stationed the sign there. The signage was positioned at a point close to the state highway intersection on Junction Street which is a local road."

Work between Junction Street and Burgess Hill was part of the wider SH3 New Plymouth to Hāwera safety improvements, and included construction of a roundabout at the Mangorei Road intersection, Nutulapati said.

"The entire New Plymouth to Hāwera project will improve safety over more than 40km of Taranaki highway, through the installation of wide centreline, flexible median barriers and turnaround facilities on SH3/3A."

Nutulapati said this part of the network was a crucial link for communities travelling between Taranaki and Manawatū.

"Currently anywhere between 7500 and 15,000 vehicles travel on SH3 every day and 3500 vehicles use SH3A.

"Our goal is to significantly increase safety for everyone while working with local residents and businesses to limit any negative impacts."

Nutulapati said SH3 between New Plymouth and Hawera was considered a high-risk rural road.

"In the period between 2019 and 2023, there were 11 deaths and 47 serious-injuries due to crashes on this section of the highway.

"Road fatalities and injuries, regardless of their severity, are unacceptable. That's why we are investing in making road safety one of our priorities. Projects like the one on SH3 and 3A are key to making people feel safe."

In its anticipated form and subject to funding availability, the entire project was expected to be delivered by 2030.