Reactivating the Christchurch Transport Blog page

Hopefully this comes through to Facebook automatically where you can see the Christchurch Transport Blog page has been reactivated with a new URL incorporating the full title of “Christchurch Transport Blog”. It is necessary to do this in order to be able to adequately distinguish this blog from other things with “Christchurch” and “Transport” in their names. The time for reactivating this page is timely as the blog has recently been moved to a dedicated hosting platform and because we also foresee an opportunity to move forward in promoting the causes that this blog holds dear. We hope to see some initiative in that in the near future so watch this space.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency FAILS To Improve Level Crossing Safety In Pukehina / Pongakawa

SunLive reported on October 14th that Waka Kotahi NZTA announced that it would commit to supporting improvements to four level crossings in the Pukehina area on the East Coast Main Trunk Railway. These crossings include the following:

Benner Road, Pongakawa. ALCAM Level Crossing 1564 at 137.13 km, GPS 176.5067, -37.8186. Stop signs only. Daily rail traffic 12, daily road traffic 225. Road controlling authority: Western Bay of Plenty DIstrict Council.

Benner Road is located off State Highway 2 as shown in the map below (from the ALCAM website).

Identifiable hazards at Benner Road Level Crossing include:

  • There are two 90 degree turns in the road approaching the crossing from the south. These turns make it difficult for vehicles travelling from the south towards State Highway 2 to obtain and maintain a good view of trains approaching the crossing as vehicles arrive at the crossing. This is due to vehicles as they reach the crossing itself, travelling parallel to the railway tracks, making it impossible to see a train approaching from the west until they make the second left hand turn almost at the crossing.
  • Benner Road Level Crossing is 40 metres from the edge of a busy state highway SH2. Vehicles travelling from the east on SH2 and making a left turn into Benner Road will not be able to see trains approaching the level crossing from the east until they have completed the 90 degree turn at the intersection shortly before reaching the crossing.
  • The Benner Road intersection with State Highway 2 poses a high hazard risk for vehicles making a right turn from SH2 into Benner Road 40 metres from the level crossing. The workload for a driver in making and safely completing a turn across a busy traffic flow on SH2 (over 7000 vehicles per day or 300 an hour on average over 24 hours) creates a conflict between the need to safely and quickly complete a right turn and then be able to stop at the level crossing should a train be coming. The 40 metres between the highway edge and the level crossing may be insufficient to safely stop after completing the turning/crossing manouevre across the highway. Vehicles making a right turn across SH2 will not be able to see trains approaching from the west until they are almost on the crossing.

The safety improvements proposed for Benner Road include barrier arms, bells and lights, but do not appear to address the crossing being too close to the intersection. Consequently, we do not have faith in the ability of NZTA to fully recognise and address all safety factors at the intersection as being relevant to the safety of the level crossing.


SH2 Paengaroa Level Crossing. ALCAM Level Crossing 1885 at 127.41 km, GPS 176.4041 / -37.8049. Half arm barriers / flashing lights. Daily rail traffic 12, daily road traffic 7250. Road controlling authority: NZTA – Tauranga.

The above aerial is not correct as the level crossing is now approached on the west side by a long curved exit road off a roundabout that is 100 metres north of the level crossing. This has replaced the T intersection shown above.

Identifiable hazards at SH2 Paengaroa Level Crossing include:

  • High volume of traffic over the level crossing.
  • 90 degree bend close to the level crossing on its western approach.

We are not aware of any accident history at this crossing and at the present do not consider it to pose high risk to road users. NZTA state “We’re making the Paengaroa SH2 level crossing safer by installing lights and bells to warn drivers when a train is coming, better signage to give people early warning of the railway crossing, as well as improving street lighting and clearing vegetation so drivers have better visibility of the crossing.”


Ohinepanea Road, Ohinepanea. ALCAM Level Crossing 1566 at 142.43 km, GPS 176.5652 / -37.8218. Give way signs only. Daily rail traffic 12, daily road traffic 115. Road controlling authority: Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

Identifiable hazards at Ohinepanea Road Level Crossing include:

  • Possible stacking distance risk with only 20 metres available from the edge of the highway to the level crossing.
  • Ohinepanea Road Level Crossing is 20 metres from the edge of a busy state highway SH2. Vehicles travelling from the east on SH2 and making a left turn into Ohinepanea Road will not be able to see trains approaching the level crossing from the east until they have completed the 90 degree turn at the intersection shortly before reaching the crossing.
  • The Ohinepanea Road intersection with State Highway 2 poses a high hazard risk for vehicles making a right turn from SH2 into Ohinepanea Road just 20 metres from the level crossing, or for vehicles making a straight crossing from Rogers Road into Ohinepanea Road. The workload for a driver in making and safely completing a turn/crossing across a busy traffic flow on SH2 (over 7000 vehicles per day or 300 an hour on average over 24 hours) creates a conflict between the need to safely and quickly complete the turning / crossing manouevre and then be able to stop at the level crossing should a train be coming. The 20 metres between the highway edge and the level crossing is very likely insufficient safely stop after completing the turning/crossing manouevre across the highway. Vehicles making a right turn across SH2 will not be able to see trains approaching from the west until they are almost on the crossing.

The safety improvements implemented for the Ohinepanea Road Level Crossing have included:

  • improving road signs and markings to give people early warning of the crossing
  • improving the street lighting so drivers have better visibility of the crossing
  • widening the road shoulder and improving site drainage. (This work apparently addresses directly too short stacking distance concerns for queueing traffic at the intersection)
  • renewing the surface to make the tracks easier to drive across.

These measures do not appear to address issues related to the crossing being too close to the intersection for traffic which must cross over the highway before reaching the level crossing. Consequently, we do not have faith in the ability of NZTA to fully recognise and address all safety factors at the intersection as being relevant to the safety of the level crossing.


Pongakawa School Road, Pongakawa. ALCAM Level Crossing 1562 at 134.27 km, GPS 176.4751 / -37.8242. Flashing lights only. Daily rail traffic 12, daily road traffic 708. Road controlling authority: Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

Pongakawa School Road Level Crossing was the site of a fatal level crossing accident in 2019 resulting in two deaths and three injuries.

Identifiable hazards at Pongakawa School Road Level Crossing include:

  • Possible stacking distance risk with only 20 metres available from the edge of the highway to the level crossing.
  • Pongokawa School Road Level Crossing is 20 metres from the edge of a busy state highway SH2. Vehicles travelling from the east on SH2 and making a left turn into Pongokawa School Road will not be able to see trains approaching the level crossing from the east until they have completed the 90 degree turn at the intersection shortly before reaching the crossing.
  • The Pongokawa School Road intersection with State Highway 2 poses a high hazard risk for vehicles making a right turn from SH2 into Pongokawa School Road just 20 metres from the level crossing. The workload for a driver in making and safely completing a turn/crossing across a busy traffic flow on SH2 (over 7000 vehicles per day or 300 an hour on average over 24 hours) creates a conflict between the need to safely and quickly complete the turning / crossing manouevre and then be able to stop at the level crossing should a train be coming. The 20 metres between the highway edge and the level crossing is very likely insufficient safely stop after completing the turning/crossing manouevre across the highway. Vehicles making a right turn across SH2 will not be able to see trains approaching from the west until they are almost on the crossing.

The safety improvements implemented for the Pongokawa School Road Level Crossing have included:

  • improving road signs and markings to give people early warning of the crossing
  • installing barrier arms and flashing lights to give people advance warning of the railway crossing
  • widening the road shoulder and improving site drainage (to address short stacking issues)
  • renewing the surface to make the tracks easier to drive across.

These measures do not appear to address issues related to the crossing being too close to the intersection for traffic which must cross over the highway before reaching the level crossing. Consequently, we do not have faith in the ability of NZTA to fully recognise and address all safety factors at the intersection as being relevant to the safety of the level crossing.


Summary: Whilst NZTA are to be lauded for attempting to address issues relating to level crossing safety on or around their network, the improvements being implemented fail to recognise and address some major safety hazards for road users and therefore bring into question the competence of road designers to assess all safety hazards pertaining to level crossings in an objective way. One risk which appears to be completely ignored is the lack of stopping or braking distance for vehicles making a right turn from the highway onto the level crossing which we believe is possibly a factor in the Pongakawa School Road level crossing accident and also in the more recent Cleverley Line level crossing accident near Palmerston North.

Kiwirail also appears to be incapable of addressing these issues in their assessment procedure according to a document outlining a procedure we obtained by downloading from the Kiwirail web site. We intend to address these matters further with the relevant authorities.

Questions Over Recent Actions by Christchurch Eastern Ward Councillors [2]

This article has stretched to a second post because of additional governance issues raised in ongoing online conversations in respect of this matter. The main protagonist being a strong supporter of the 2 Councillors concerned, whereas our position is to oppose them. The suggestion being as articulated in the first article, some Councillors believe that council staff have their own agenda and are intent on pushing this through irrespective of the direction that Councillors give to them.

The key issue in this situation is that we have an organisation – the Christchurch City Council – that is an operational body that also has elected members in a governance role, and the problem is that the civil functions of the organisation must be carried out in a non-political way. This precludes Councillors from being involved in operational matters or giving operational oversight to the work of Council staff. This distinction is essential in order to avoid politicising the work of the organisation, which has to be focused on achieving outcomes that are focused on lawful intentions completely independently of political ones.

In our experience, dealing with a range of people from across the political spectrum, those that complain the most about staff having their own agenda are those who are most strongly focused on serving their own political agenda – they tend to be linked to national political movements, have strongly ideological viewpoints, or perhaps are connected with major business or activist interests in the City, for example. Giving an example – Mike Yardley has been a trenchant critic of the Council through many of his columns this year – he is essentially using his platform to push National Party ideology in relation to local governance – he has in relation to this issue backed the two Councillors and used quite strong language attacking Council staff in this instance. Yardley should be required to register as a political promoter and broadcast an authorisation statement with each such message, especially during the current election campaign. No doubt we are going to see another column from him shortly defending the two Councillors further.

What must be remembered is when Councillors are, firstly, overstepping the boundaries of elected office, and secondly, pushing their political barrow through the auspices of elected office, that there is strong potential for abuse of process. We have long been strongly of the view that local government democracy is quite weak with much lesser checks and balances than central government and it tends to favour those with political agendas who have the means to push them through. For example one of the things that was highlighted as a result of the Christchurch earthquake was that councils such as CCC had flouted requirements of the Building Act related to development of land with natural hazards, and that the same Act at the time did not mandate any policy relating to the hazards of unstrengthened heritage buildings. There is very clear obvious motivation for Councillors of a particular political ideology to oppose staff’s own personal affiliations and views insofar as these may influence their actions whilst holding managerial roles within the Council. Even if a council has a plan and tries to follow it, developers can threaten legal action to get what they want and in a lot of cases this results in a backdown. Or if a proposal receives significant opposition from a community, it can be moved into some other community where there is less resistance. This last issue is of particular concern where it relates to the conflict between the interests of property owners and occupiers, this distinction becoming ever more important as the proportion of people who are renting rather than owning property becoming ever greater. For example, if an area starts to gentrify, it will be welcomed by owners because of an upward impact on property values; but occupiers who are charged higher rentals and potentially displaced from the area will see a negative impact. As we may have said earlier in this article and certainly in other posts, territorial authorities overwhelmingly favour the interests of property owners over those of occupiers.

Given these factors and the potential for abuse of process, we choose to re-emphasise that we believe the Council has followed the correct course of action in censuring the two Councillors who were involved in this activity. We have little agreement with the various parties that are supporting the Councillors, because they are mostly from groups who fail to understand that Councils have been delegated functions by central government to perform, and that these do involve a level of enforcement. The Council cops a lot of political abuse from these people who are mostly very vocal right wingers who despise the regulatory requirements that they have to acknowledge and blame the Council when these regulations are in place to ensure there is a reasonably level handed response and that people are all treated the same way.