Cape Palliser Rd faces an uncertain future, with Waka Kotahi NZTA currently discussing funding options with South Wairarapa
District Council [SWDC].
The road is the only route connecting residents [90 according to the 2018 census] and 49 rateable properties at Cape Palliser, Ngawi, and Mangatoetoe to the outside world.
It is also commonly taken by holidaymakers, recreational fishermen, surfers, and trampers accessing Aorangi Forest Park.
Over the years, it has suffered millions of dollars of damage from the surging tide.
Up until now, Waka Kotahi NZTA has funded the repairs, but this funding model will change from winter next year.
Councils generally hold responsibility for the maintenance and operation of their local roading network, but Cape Palliser Rd is classed as a special purpose road that’s funded 100 per cent by Waka Kotahi.
Since 2020, maintenance and operations have cost the transport agency $1.46 million, with another $992,000 spent on emergency events.
In the past financial year alone, Waka Kotahi spent $1.3m on the road.
Cape Palliser Rd was first listed as a special purpose road in 1997 because of its high tourism value, high maintenance costs, and minimal local rate income.
At a recent meeting in Martinborough, Waka Kotahi regional relationships director Emma Speight told South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] it would no longer be funded as a special purpose road from June 2024.
Instead, it will be transitioned into SWDC’s funding assistance rate [FAR] – the amount of Waka Kotahi funding a council receives as a percentage of its total road maintenance and operations costs.
Speight said that beyond June 2024, the transport agency will not fund the entire road but will continue to pay for repairs to four especially vulnerable sections.
A council’s FAR covers all land transport, including maintenance and improvements, walking and cycling activities, and infrastructure.
South Wairarapa’s FAR was 52 per cent in 2022/23 and 51 per cent in 2023/24.
Waka Kotahi said SWDC had submitted a proposal detailing one option for future funding arrangements for Cape Palliser Rd, but the specifics were still under discussion and no final decision had been made.
South Wairarapa District Council previously said its rural roading reserve was “significantly depleted” by the damage from Cyclone Gabrielle.
At a February 28 Greater Wellington Regional Council Wairarapa Committee meeting, SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson said the council had “spent an absolute fortune” on fixing roads.
“We were fortunate to have a rural road reserve; it is now zero.”