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Repairs start on damaged road

Makeshift repairs have begun on the cyclone-damaged access through Marainanga Gorge to Papauma Marae, according to the Tararua District Council.

The quick fix has been fully funded by Waka Kotahi and will cost at least $500,000 but is expected to run up to $2 million.

The money draws from $10 million given to the Tararua District Council in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The council says the temporary road should be completed in five weeks, depending on the weather.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis said because the district has a small ratepayer base, repairs like this require 100 per cent funding from central government.

Repairing rural roads Is crucial for isolated people living with high stress and anxiety, Collis said.

“They’re lifelines to these communities.”

A marae representative said when the road is complete, trucks will be able to get in so the farm can operate and kaumatua can then access the marae more easily.

“It changes everything completely. That is a huge decision,” Professor
Regan Potangaroa said.

However, council staff Potangaroa spoke to on Wednesday had no details on the start of work, prompting him to observe that Maori “didn’t seem to show up on the radar” of the council, despite the marae going into bat to have the Coast Rd reinstated.

The Massey University engineering expert – who is conducting a national survey of all marae and how they may be impacted by climate change – is on the board of Te Aroha O Aohanga marae, part of the Papauma complex.

Potangaroa said they had to fight hard for funding from the council, and noted that council staff also couldn’t provide him with information about project timelines or how serviceable the road would be once completed.

According to Tararua District Council strategic advisor Sandra James, the council is still very much in its response phase.

“We acknowledge it’s challenging for people. Everything is being done that can be done,” she said.

Mayor Collis said that in the aftermath of Gabrielle, 49 roads were closed and 200 farms were affected.

“Tararua is fighting for funding,” Collis said.

Marainanga Gorge was a high priority for the council, she said, and council staff have been working hard since the cyclone to get stock moving.

Collis said a permanent road is being investigated.

Ultimately a permanent solution was needed, Potangaroa said: “A class one road that can take school buses but can also take stock trucks.”

Potangaroa said the council is too focused on the financial cost-benefit studies that drive New Zealand’s infrastructure investment.

“Future decisions – and there are going to be more of them – will need to reflect the wellbeing of the people”, he said, adding that Papauma is a window into the future for marae, and iwi will have to decide whether to stay or go.

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