‘Where the bloody hell are ya, Te Awamutu?’
TE AWA-WHO-TU?: Te Awamutu Community Public Relations chairperson, Katherine O’Regan searches for any sign for tourists and visitors leaving Waikato Airport of where Te Awamutu is. 086071AD
Plenty of signs change needed
By Grant Johnston
Transit New Zealand has rejected repeated requests for better signage en route to Te Awamutu, but the problem does not go away - just people who might otherwise visit our town.
In the week that the Transit’s latest rejection came through, Irish band The Galway Ramblers that played at the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the Te Awamutu Wine and Food Festival got lost on the way from Hamilton to Te Awamutu and ended up in Cambridge.
Transit says people who want to find Te Awamutu can. It’s hard to imagine how they can be so certain of that when anecdotally there is no shortage of stories of people ‘taking the wrong fork in the road’.
Te Awamutu Community Public Relations has been writing to Transit since 2002 trying to have some more helpful signage installed, particularly from Hamilton.
Signs in Hamilton direct southbound travellers to Rotorua or New Plymouth with no mention of Te Awamutu. Motorists from south of Te Awamutu heading north are similarly blissfully unaware of Te Awamutu. Signs in Kihikihi, just 3km from Te Awamutu, direct travellers to Hamilton or Putaruru. Motorists from the east or west heading towards Te Awamutu have to also basically know which way to go or be determined.
Waipa District Council has added its weight to requests.
But Transit’s latest response to TA Public Relations says that directional signage on the State Highway network follows the manual of Traffic Signs and Markings. This decrees that the signing system is based on “route continuity, based on mandatory stage and destination names”. Additional “minor or intermediate destination names” are limited so as not to distract motorists.
In other words if you are a tourist or visitor to Hamilton, you should realise that to go to Te Awamutu you head for New Plymouth.
Transit’s area engineer for West Waikato, Gerhard van Blerk has indicated that Transit is willing to investigate the possibility of a Te Awamutu sign on State Highway 21-Airport Road during its next signage review.
“Regrettably, we are not prepared to replace New Plymouth with Te Awamutu on some of the signs around Hamilton.”
Katherine O’Regan, chair person of TA Public Relations says “Transit’s intransigence is indeed a sight to behold”. She says guest speakers to Te Awamutu organisations often seem to find themselves in Cambridge. “Visitors to our lovely town get lost trying to find us - they end up in Cambridge and anywhere except where they are supposed to be.”
Seeking a ‘fair go’ from Transit, Mrs O’Regan has written to the Television New Zealand show of that name asking for coverage of Te Awamutu’s plight. The television show has responded and is seeking more information, especially stories of people losing their way.
Mrs O’Regan says many people have complained to her organisation.
“We wish we had logged them before, but we are going to from now on.”
Anyone with stories about lost travellers is also welcome to contact the office.
The issue has had strong support from other organisations along with Council including Te Awamutu Community Board and Te Awamutu Chamber of Commerce.
Community Board chairperson Dean Taylor gathered photos of all signs from all directions heading to Te Awamutu. “There was a nine letter word dear to our hearts missing from most signs,” he says.