Flood warning signs brought in after a girl almost drowned in a Blenheim river have been stolen in a crime the council says could compromise public safety.
The signs were bought by the Marlborough District Council after a 12-year-old girl had to be rescued from the Taylor River in 2014 after it burst its banks.
Now seven of the 18 signs, some with chains attached to block access to the riverside reserve, have been stolen after they were put up following wet weather last week.
Council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson said the signs cost $75 each, but with chains attached the total cost for each unit was $285.
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Five of the seven signs had chains attached, so the overall cost to replace the signs would be about $1575.
“It’s a huge pain in the butt to be perfectly honest and it’s put people at risk,” Hutchinson said.
“People do see when there’s a lot of water in there, but some times they do need to be told ‘don’t be dumb and don’t go down there’.
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“The ratepayer is wearing the cost, every time one goes missing it’s a cost to the ratepayer because our insurance excesses are quite high so it’s not claimable.”
Whenever the water level reached a certain point, council contractor Downer New Zealand put the 18 signs up along the river to warn people not to go down into the reserve.
Marlborough deputy mayor Terry Sloan condemned the theft, saying he would hate to see a repeat of the 2014 incident which the chains and signs were in place to prevent.
“I would hate to see another incident where someone went onto the floodway because they were not familiar with the area and the safety risk when the river is up,” he said.
“Council is trying to do the right thing by alerting people to the danger, and these guys think it’s a fun thing to steal.
“It wouldn’t be so fun if it was one of their family members that got swept away.”
Hutchinson said it was probably a group of people that took the signs. It would be too much of a coincidence for seven different people to take them, he said.
He hoped the culprits would do the right thing and return them to the council, and if people found them discarded somewhere he urged them to do the same.