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Pothole problem of ‘epidemic proportions’

Motorists are fed up with the proliferating potholes on Wairarapa roads, while councils and Waka Kotahi say they are doing their best to stay on top of maintenance.

Richard Mason, owner and mechanic at Tom’s Autos in Masterton, said he has “noticed a considerable worsening of the road conditions in our region in the last couple of years”.

He said his mechanics were regularly seeing tell-tale signs of pothole damage on vehicles coming in for warrants of fitness, including many wheels dented on the inside edges.

“We’ve seen damage in lower suspension bushes and unexplained wheel alignment issues,” Mason said.

“People say they haven’t hit anything in particular, so it just comes from the roads themselves.”

AA Wairarapa chairman Craig Bowyer said potholes in the region are “starting to reach epidemic proportions”.

He said when contractors did repair potholes, the work was often “slap-happy”, and the potholes soon opened up again.

“There just doesn’t seem to be a desire to solve the problem.

“It’s just getting ridiculous; while I understand the rainy weather and heavy trucks put a lot of strain on the road, the conditions are getting worse and worse,” Bowyer said.

“It shows that Waka Kotahi and councils are not spending enough on maintenance.”

The pothole problem was also impacting professional drivers.

Reisima Haulage owner Graeme Reisima agreed potholes had become more common on Wairarapa roads in recent years.

“They’re difficult to fix; unless you do a comprehensive, solid repair, the issue will turn up again.

“If you take cheap measures building a road, you’ve got to accept potholes and cracks later on,” Reisima said.

Trucking industry group Transporting New Zealand said the Government must urgently fund additional road maintenance.

Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett said the holiday period highlighted the “appalling” state of the roading network.

“It’s not just about road maintenance. We need the Government to recommit to new roading capacity to ease the strain on our existing network,” he said.

Masterton District Council [MDC] roading services manager Kane Jaquiery said last year’s wet weather caused severe deterioration of potholes.

He said MDC’s roading contractor Higgins repaired 465 potholes in 2022, compared to 329 in the previous year.

Jaquiery said that 348 of the 465 potholes were found and repaired during road inspections by Higgins, while public reports alerted them to another 117.

Waka Kotahi acting national maintenance and operations manager Jaclyn Hankin said the agency is currently undertaking its largest-ever programme of spring and summer road renewals.

She said Waka Kotahi’s volume of state highway renewal work decreased in the mid-2010s due to reduced funding for road maintenance, which created a backlog of renewals that it continues to work through with additional funding from the 2021 – 24 National Land Transport Programme.

“We have a plan to improve the overall condition of the network,” Hankin said.

“However, this will take time to achieve due to the times of year we can complete renewals and rebuilds and overall industry capacity and funding constraints.”

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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