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‘Completely Unacceptable’: Richmond Roadworkers Copping Daily Abuse

Contractors working on Richmond's Wensley Road are facing daily abuse from the public, including a serious incident where an angry motorist drove right up to a supervisor's legs.

Drew Hayes, alliance manager for Downer Group, said 21 serious incidents have been reported to supervisors at the site.

“Police have also been notified of one serious incident. Our team are dealing with around 10 minor incidents a day.”

While workers at other sites across the district experience incidents of abuse “from time to time”, Hayes said it was “rarely to the degree” being seen at Wensley Road.

One of the incidents at Wensley Road involved the site traffic management supervisor asking a driver to turn their vehicle around to avoid running into oncoming traffic.

The driver then drove his vehicle towards the supervisor until their front bumper was touching the contractor’s shins.

Most of the abuse received by the workers is swearing and other verbal abuse.

“While there shouldn’t be the need, confrontation and de-escalation training are being rolled out,” Hayes said.

Tasman District Council transportation manager Jamie McPherson said the behaviour from some members of the public is “completely unacceptable.”

Nelson City Council countered a mocking social post of its roading contractors with an explanation of what each worker was doing in the post's photo. Photo: supplied/Nelson City Council.
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“Attracting and retaining skilled staff into civil construction is difficult enough without our people being put off by this kind of abuse, and being tempted to take their skills, training and knowledge elsewhere.”

Nelson City Council's manager transport Margaret Parfitt added that her council has also seen a "noticeable increase" of abuse directed and contractors and council officers, particularly online.

"Council strongly condemns abuse towards roadworkers and council staff. They are doing an important job in the public eye and deserve the same respect as any other Nelsonian attending a day at work."

In April, the Nelson council responded to a social media post that contained a photo of several council contractors and made fun of them for appearing not to be working on the worksite.

The council re-uploaded the photo with each contractor's role labelled and additional context to explain that a lab technician had been testing to see if the ground was dry enough to lay asphalt while the other workers were ready to get working once approval was given.

The Wensley Road works are being done to dig out and replace areas of weak road structure.

The work began on 8 April and was originally meant to take up to four weeks, but the discovery of coal tar on-site has slowed work and pushed the expected completion date out by two weeks until 19 May.

Coal tar must be isolated and separated from the asphalt and gravel layers, stored in a lined bin for testing, and disposed of to a suitable facility.

Topsoil layers have also been found below the extent of the dig-outs, requiring much deeper holes needing to be dug than originally planned.

Roadworks had closed Wensley Road earlier in February while a new wall and wider footpath were constructed where the council had acquired land.

During that closure, the council also took the opportunity to complete other structural repairs to adjacent roads.

Two-way traffic was recently reinstated on Wensley Road between Bateup Road and Chelsea Drive, while the stretch from Chelsea Drive to Oxford Street is still open to southbound only.

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