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Locals urge Waka Kotahi to save road

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] and Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty have come out in support of Cape Palliser Rd residents’ bid to convince Waka Kotahi NZTA not to cut back funding for the key roading lifeline of Wairarapa’s South Coast.

Urged on by vocal locals, McAnulty and SWDC have respectively written letters to the Minister of Transport and Waka Kotahi asking them to continue fully funding Cape Palliser Rd beyond June 2024.

The road, which runs from Lake Ferry to Cape Palliser Lighthouse, is the only access route to 188 ratepaying properties.

The coastline is home to farming families and a strong fishing industry. It is also a popular destination for recreational fishermen, surfers, trampers, and holidaymakers.

Waka Kotahi has entirely funded the road’s repairs and maintenance since 1997, having classed it as a Special Purpose Road [SPR], but in 2014 the transport decided to phase out SPRs by June 2024.

That means that from next winter South Wairarapa’s already financially strained ratepayers will need to pay a 49 per cent share of the road costs, after being hit this year with one of the highest rates increases in New Zealand.

Cape Palliser Road experiences high levels of coastal erosion and has cost Waka Kotahi an average of $983,589 annually to maintain and repair since 2007.

The Cape Palliser Residents and Ratepayers Association recently held a meeting at Ngawi Community Hall in May to oppose the road losing its SPR status.

Waka Kotahi and council staff attended, as well as 80 residents and ratepayers.

Resident Tina Day said many locals voiced their concerns about the efficacy of contractors to date, given the lack of repair and maintenance.

Despite the millions of dollars, Waka Kotahi has spent on maintenance and repairs, the road is degraded and only open to single-lane traffic in some places.

Locals said the culverts are not being cleaned or maintained regularly and properly, and contractors are not taking advantage of extensive local knowledge of the road.

Day said residents also discussed the new EcoReef technology, an innovative hexagonal type of seawall currently being trialled to protect some sections of the Cape Palliser Rd against rough waves.

Investment in expanding the EcoReef technology to cover all the most vulnerable sections could stabilise the coastline, bringing down the cost of future maintenance, she said.

Since that meeting was held, Day wrote to Waka Kotahi and presented to SWDC, alongside resident and former mayor Alex Beijen, on behalf of the residents and ratepayers association.

After Beijen and Day’s presentation, SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner wrote a letter to the Waka Kotahi board.

He said the council already struggles to maintain its roads, despite spending 25 per cent of its capital expenditure on land transport, and was not in a good financial position to fund the future impacts of severe weather on Cape Palliser Rd.

“With a move away from a wholly funded FAR [funding assistance rate], our coastal residents face the stark reality of isolation and the loss of any benefits to the economy being realised through fishing and tourism,” Gardner said.

“I am firmly of the view that putting at risk the social wellbeing and tourism benefits by not wholly funding repairs and maintenance of the Cape Palliser Road beyond July 2024, as well as SWDC’s inability to do the same, is not something that can be ignored; and should outweigh the ongoing cost implications for Waka Kotahi.”

Meanwhile, McAnulty has written to the Minister of Transport stating his strong objection to the funding reduction.

“Given the vulnerability of the road, without the special purpose funding, the road is likely to end up at severe risk of failure, jeopardising the viability of the community who rely on it,” McAnulty said.

“I urge that the decision be reversed and the special purpose designation be reinstated.”

Waka Kotahi regional manager Mark Owen said the transport agency decided to phase out SPRs in 2014 because the funding class was hampering national roading investment decisions.

Owen said Waka Kotahi is currently working on a transition arrangement for the future funding of the road, the details of which have not been finalised.

“Waka Kotahi appreciates that Cape Palliser Rd is an important community link with cultural significance and tourism benefits,” Owen said.

“We do understand that its ongoing maintenance and access is a priority for residents and regular users of the route. Their input, and that of the SWDC, are being considered as part of the decision-making process.” coastal erosion and has cost Waka Kotahi an average of $983,589 annually to maintain and repair since 2007.

The Cape Palliser Residents and Ratepayers Association recently held a meeting at Ngawi Community Hall in May to oppose the road losing its SPR status.

Waka Kotahi and council staff attended, as well as 80 residents and ratepayers.

Resident Tina Day said many locals voiced their concerns about the efficacy of contractors to date, given the lack of repair and maintenance.

Despite the millions of dollars, Waka Kotahi has spent on maintenance and repairs, the road is degraded and only open to single-lane traffic in some places.

Locals said the culverts are not being cleaned or maintained regularly and properly, and contractors are not taking advantage of extensive local knowledge of the road.

Day said residents also discussed the new EcoReef technology, an innovative hexagonal type of seawall currently being trialled to protect some sections of the Cape Palliser Rd against rough waves. Investment in expanding the EcoReef technology to cover all the most vulnerable sections could stabilise the coastline, bringing down the cost of future maintenance, she said.

Since that meeting was held, Day wrote to Waka Kotahi and presented to SWDC, alongside resident and former mayor Alex Beijen, on behalf of the residents and ratepayers association.

After Beijen and Day’s presentation, SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner wrote a letter to the Waka Kotahi board.

He said the council already struggles to maintain its roads, despite spending 25 per cent of its capital expenditure on land transport, and was not in a good financial position to fund the future impacts of severe weather on Cape Palliser Rd.

“With a move away from a wholly funded FAR [funding assistance rate], our coastal residents face the stark reality of isolation and the loss of any benefits to the economy being realised through fishing and tourism,” Gardner said.

“I am firmly of the view that putting at risk the social wellbeing and tourism benefits by not wholly funding repairs and maintenance of the Cape Palliser Road beyond July 2024, as well as SWDC’s inability to do the same, is not something that can be ignored; and should outweigh the ongoing cost implications for Waka Kotahi.”

Meanwhile, McAnulty has written to the Minister of Transport stating his strong objection to the funding reduction.

“Given the vulnerability of the road, without the special purpose funding, the road is likely to end up at severe risk of failure, jeopardising the viability of the community who rely on it,” McAnulty said.

“I urge that the decision be reversed and the special purpose designation be reinstated.”

Waka Kotahi regional manager Mark Owen said the transport agency decided to phase out SPRs in 2014 because the funding class was hampering national roading investment decisions.

Owen said Waka Kotahi is currently working on a transition arrangement for the future funding of the road, the details of which have not been finalised.

“Waka Kotahi appreciates that Cape Palliser Rd is an important community link with cultural significance and tourism benefits,” Owen said.

“Maintenance and access is a priority for residents and regular users of the route. Their input, and that of the SWDC, are being considered in the decision-making process.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Daryl, I wouldnt hold my breath on that at all. I wrote a letter saying I understand NZTA want to remove all Special Roading Funding across the entire country (from memory there are less than 50 of these roads), however before they do they need to fully repair the road(s) and also future proof it/them – before the funding drops to approx 40% of the cost to maintain it (being the same as all other roads they fund).
    I see this as a practicable and sensible way forward.

  2. Will there be an active follow-up to the initiative reported here? What is the official WK response and what further action in the local MP pledged to? What strategy does SWDC have to deal with road maintenance if WK stand firm on their position to withdraw special road funding?

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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