Far North's first fixed speed camera attacked before it was even switched on

The Far North's first fixed speed camera is out of action less than a week after it was turned on.
The Far North's first fixed speed camera is out of action less than a week after it was turned on. Photo credit: Supplied / NZTA Waka Kotahi

By Peter de Graaf of RNZ

The Far North's first fixed speed camera has been vandalised just days before it was due to be switched on.

The camera was installed beside State Highway 1 between Kawakawa and Moerewa, at the request of residents in the nearby settlement of Taumatamākuku after a series of fatal crashes.

After a lengthy trial phase, the camera had been due to be fully activated tomorrow.

But Taumatamākuku Community Representatives Committee chairman Roddy chairman said he had been informed by the Waka Kotahi / New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) the camera stopped working at 12.30am on Saturday. He checked the camera and found it had been damaged with a pick or similar implement.

Pihema said the damage was disappointing because the camera was installed at the behest of the community, and only affected people who were breaking the 80km/h speed limit through Taumatamākuku.

"The whole point of putting it there is to protect our community in Taumatamākuku. People might not understand that because it's down the road from us, but it's had a real impact on speed already."

The towns on either side of the settlement, Kawakawa and Moerewa, were not affected because the highway through those areas was subject to a 50km/h urban limit.

"Our community is between them. We're in an 80km/h zone, dropped from 100km/h, and that's why the camera is important to us."

There were claims the camera had been installed as a revenue-gathering exercise for NZTA or the government, but Pihema said that was not the case.

At the community's request, all other functions - such as automatic number plate recognition - had been removed from the camera, so the only people affected were those who broke the speed limit.

He said people also complained the camera was a waste of money, but now money would have to be spent repairing it.

He put the vandalism down to a "kickback" during the past week, and the belief of some motorists that they were entitled to speed through the settlement.

NZTA regional relationships director Steve Mutton said the agency was still assessing the damage, but at this stage he expected the camera will be operational in a few weeks' time.

"What we're really concerned about is that someone feels it's okay to damage public property," he said.

"We're working to get the camera up and running as soon as possible and will be reporting this incident to police for investigation."

Mutton said the investigation would include considering additional measures to protect the camera from further damage.

During the past two years the Taumatamākuku Community Representatives Committee has succeeded in reducing the speed limit on the highway and within the settlement, as well as having speed bumps and footpaths built so children and kaumātua and kuia no longer have to walk on the road.

The camera was the first fixed speed camera in the Far North and the first installed by Waka Kotahi in Northland.

Police operate two fixed speed cameras elsewhere in Northland - at Te Kamo in Whangārei and Kaiwaka in the Kaipara District.

This story has been corrected after initially saying the camera had been turned on a week ago. It was due to be turned on on Tuesday.