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Published: 2008-02-07 00:00:00

Environment Waikato and Waipa District Council say vandals are putting people’s lives at risk by destroying safety signs near Cambridge’s Karapiro Bridge.

A new sign erected in the area last weekend was scratched and burnt with a cigarette lighter only hours after being fixed to a jetty near the bridge.

The sign is owned by Waipa District Council and warns people not to swim or dive in the area due to strong river currents, undertows, hidden obstacles and changing river levels, which pose a serious drowning risk.

Environment Waikato navigation safety officer Kim McKenzie said signs on the jetty and a nearby boat ramp had been repeatedly vandalized, costing ratepayers thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

The regional council has been supplying materials needed to fix the signs in place.

“We had seven signs destroyed there over three months in 2006 and I’ve probably had three or four vandalised since – broken, smashed and even set on fire,” he said.

Mr McKenzie said he had built a heavy steel frame with polycarbonate casing to protect the latest sign, which was damaged only hours after he welded it to the jetty on Sunday afternoon.

“I got a call on Monday morning to say all the plastic had been scratched. It hadn’t even been up there for one day.

“While I was putting the new sign up I had a carload of five guys drive up really keen to swim there, but they quickly changed their minds when I told them how dangerous it was, which illustrates how important these signs are.”

Waipa District Council parks operations manager Rob Sinclair said at the end of the day, councils could do their best to warn people but couldn’t physically stop people swimming near the bridge.

“It’s very disappointing to see people flouting the rules and endangering lives,” he said.