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South Wairarapa’s impending road charge

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.”


  1. I am in full agreement with the above comment Cape Palliser Rd must retain its status as a Special Purpose Rd.

  2. I have been fortunate enough to be going to Ngawi since about 1979. I have seen many a property be eaten up by the sea over those years. The road problem is never ever going to go away. This article only speaks of what’s been spent on the road in recent years. It has had millions & millions spent on it. I can hardly recall a trip out there, that a contractor hasn’t been repairing some part of it. It’s time for an inland road.

  3. This is a critical road that is of huge social and cultural significance read the book Prehistoric man of Palliser Bay it is a tourist hot spot that I have a served significant increase in popularity since 1956!!
    Government not regional or local government must step up!!

Comments are closed.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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