Bryan Tucker owns the land encompassing Morrison’s Bush campground. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR
When it comes to repairs, rural roads are often relegated to the bottom of the pecking order. However, for a Wairarapa delivery driver, one road in South Wairarapa stood out a mile: Glenmorven Rd in Morrisons Bush.
The driver said it was the worst road he had driven on in the area. Yet, what was a nuisance for him had been a fact of life for generations of Glenmorven Rd residents.
Heading south from Greytown to Martinborough at 100kmh, halfway down Bidwills Cutting Rd, Glenmorven Rd branched off at a dog-leg intersection. There was no indication of a reduced speed limit, even as the road mounted the crest of a hill and transitioned from tar-seal to rough gravel.
The next two and a half km were one long cattle stop – a “corrugated” surface, as one resident put it. Cars, trucks, and camper-vans would judder down to the campground on the banks of the Ruamahanga River. Sometimes they lost traction on the way back up, and residents had to tow them.
The campground has been promoted as a drawcard for the region. On the Destination Wairarapa website, it was listed as the top thing to do close to Greytown: “Fancy a riverside picnic, swim or night away camping? Take a drive to Morrisons Bush on the outskirts of town.”
Bryan Tucker owned a farm with land on both sides of Glenmorven Rd. On the northern side, it extended from near Bidwills Cutting Rd down to the river. His land also encompassed the campground and picnic area.
Tucker said this summer, the campground had attracted significantly more campers than usual, which had further exacerbated the strain on the road.
He had set up a camera at his piggery to provide an accurate indication of traffic volumes using the road. In the peak of summer, from 200 to 250 vehicles had passed by each day.
“Since the last year or two particularly, there’s more and more traffic going down that road,” Tucker said.
“There’s more residences being built, more areas getting cut up for lots to build on, as well as traffic to the river.”
Five hundred metres west of the river, the road descended a steep hill overlooking a large property.
Chris Hodson had lived between this property and Wellington for more than 20 years, but had now made it his permanent home. He said his fences were damaged by vehicles every summer, and the rural post would not deliver to his address.
“I’ve been writing letters all the time I’ve been here,” Hodson said. “It’s been the subject of – I can’t think how many occasions – of submissions to the council.”
In all those years, although Glenmorven Rd had been maintained by graders, it had never been sealed.
After one complaint to South Wairarapa District Council, a sign warning drivers of gravel had been erected at the top of the hill overlooking Hodson’s property.
In 2008, a quad bike rider had lost control going down the hill, killing a 36-year-old man. Hodson said the skid marks had started directly underneath the warning sign.
In recent months, residents had come together and sent emails to the council describing the difficult and dangerous driving conditions, and asked what they intended to do.
Last month, council chief executive Harry Wilson told the group he would welcome submissions on the road to inform the council’s long-term plan.
However, he pointed out there was 265km of unsealed roads in the district – about a third of the total network. Wilson said it cost about $300,000 a km of sealing, and rates could only fund one km a year.
“We currently prioritise sealing based on factors such as safety risk, abutments to bridges, around rural schools, to name a few,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Tucker had a good point about the use of Morrisons Bush as a recreation resource. He said Glenmorven Rd could be added to the list, but suggested a submission might only include part of the road, such as the rise to the top of the hill, as this would fall within the annual quota.
In the meantime, grading the road was the only solution, although Wilson acknowledged the dry period had “put the council between a rock and a hard place”.
“The ground is so dry that we can’t grade the roads to remove corrugations and potholes, and we share the community’s frustrations. We ask people to be patient, drive to the conditions and to keep reporting dangerous areas to us.”
The latest grading had happened on Tuesday.
“They graded it [Tuesday], which has made it smoother, but that will last barely a week,” Hodson said. “That’s what they have been doing for 20 years.”