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Reading St frustration for residents

South Wairarapa District Council has received a barrage of complaints from residents tired of living in a roadworks zone on Greytown’s Reading St.

Works started on Reading St in April with a scheduled completion date of October. The tender price of $1,539,635.39 [plus GST] was accepted by SWDC before work started.

Residents expected the project to be finished in October, but the project soon attracted negative feedback from community members, citing an obvious lack of progress.

A Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA] request from the Times-Age to SWDC has unveiled the extent of these complaints.

In one message, a resident tells a council staff member they “couldn’t organise a p**s-up in a brewery” in an email sent in April.

“Who do you think you are, telling me that I can’t raise concerns about safety on public roads?”

In June, SWDC received a message from a resident frustrated with potholes and disruption to nearby residents and Greytown School.

“It is extremely disappointing to see that work on the area is sporadic, and there seems to be no sense of urgency to get the job completed.”

An email from SWDC roading manager Tim Langley on June 19 asks Higgins for a programme update, citing “a lot of bad feeling in the community regarding lack of progress”. The next day, another email was sent asking if Higgins could take over work, and referred to issues with the sub-contracting group.

“Tim Langley has advised that this project is getting very political with a number of residents within Reading or Church Streets knowing which buttons to push and how often with the council.”

A reply ensures that the crew will be “more attentive going forward”.

“I have worked with this crew before and always found them reliable and trustworthy.

“I am confident that they will step it up a notch or two.”

The complaints continued to roll in.

In August, SWDC was still fielding plenty of feedback with a common theme of dissatisfaction, including one resident stating that nothing had been done for more than three weeks.

“It’s frankly a nightmare having to use the road by car or foot – we have no alternative but to walk on the road, as the footpath is only partially constructed.

“We are on the east side of the road and need to cross the bog of eternal stench to even get to it, something we’re not prepared to do given it smells of sewerage.”

Another resident brought another source of public discontent: This year’s SH2 road improvements.

“It is making the roundabout debacle between Carterton and Masterton look like a lesson in roading maintenance excellence.”

On October 6, Reading St residents received a letter from SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner advising that the project was on track.

“Some of you have complained about the length of time this work is taking and the debris left behind on occasion. I can assure you that there are reasonable explanations for both of these issues,” Gardner wrote.

“The contractor advises us that this project is on track.”

Less than a month later, an updated programme for Reading St was sent to SWDC from Higgins on October 11, offering details behind 26 days’ worth of delays to the works.

Four days were added for a stormwater design change, eight days for the consent and removal of an asbestos-clogged pipe, four days for extra construction time time required for the water race and 10 days for a redesign of the kerb in from of the Orchards.

Langley responded, stating the delays would be “unacceptable to councillors and Greytown residents”.

“Prior to the email below the SWDC as Principal has received no notification or correspondence notices that the works identified below have created an extension of time.”

The delays set a new completion goal before the Christmas break shutdown.

When asked to respond to resident grumbles, Higgins Wairarapa branch manager Nick Hamblyn said they understood the work had been disruptive and wanted to apologise for the frustration.

“The delays were caused by a variety of issues, including an extremely wet winter period, the discovery of asbestos pipes causing an unplanned but essential site shut down and difficult underlying ground conditions requiring changes to the project’s design,” Hamblyn said.

“We also acknowledge that the delays in the early stages of the project should have been communicated better.

“We would like to reassure the local community that we have made some great progress in recent months and the project is nearing completion.”

A spokesperson for SWDC said at this stage, the remaining work included minor concrete works, car park and road sealing, berm reinstatement and other minor activities. The next day, another email was sent asking if Higgins could take over work, and referred to issues with the sub-contracting group.

“Tim Langley has advised that this project is getting very political with a number of residents within Reading or Church Streets knowing which buttons to push and how often with the council.”

A reply ensures that the crew will be “more attentive going forward”.

“I have worked with this crew before and always found them reliable and trustworthy.

“I am confident that they will step it up a notch or two.”

The complaints continued to roll in.

In August, SWDC was still fielding plenty of feedback with a common theme of dissatisfaction, including one resident stating that nothing had been done for more than three weeks.

“It’s frankly a nightmare having to use the road by car or foot – we have no alternative but to walk on the road, as the footpath is only partially constructed.

“We are on the east side of the road and need to cross the bog of eternal stench to even get to it, something we’re not prepared to do given it smells of sewerage.”

Another resident brought another source of public discontent: This year’s SH2 road improvements.

“It is making the roundabout debacle between Carterton and Masterton look like a lesson in roading maintenance excellence.”

On October 6, Reading St residents received a letter from SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner advising that the project was on track.

“Some of you have complained about the length of time this work is taking and the debris left behind on occasion. I can assure you that there are reasonable explanations for both of these issues,” Gardner wrote.

“The contractor advises us that this project is on track.”

Less than a month later, an updated programme for Reading St was sent to SWDC from Higgins on October 11, offering details behind 26 days’ worth of delays to the works.

Four days were added for a stormwater design change, eight days for the consent and removal of an asbestos-clogged pipe, four days for extra construction time time required for the water race and 10 days for a redesign of the kerb in from of the Orchards.

Langley responded, stating the delays would be “unacceptable to councillors and Greytown residents”.

“Prior to the email below the SWDC as Principal has received no notification or correspondence notices that the works identified below have created an extension of time.”

The delays set a new completion goal before the Christmas break shutdown.

When asked to respond to resident grumbles, Higgins Wairarapa branch manager Nick Hamblyn said they understood the work had been disruptive and wanted to apologise for the frustration.

“The delays were caused by a variety of issues, including an extremely wet winter period, the discovery of asbestos pipes causing an unplanned but essential site shut down and difficult underlying ground conditions requiring changes to the project’s design,” Hamblyn said.

“We also acknowledge that the delays in the early stages of the project should have been communicated better.

“We would like to reassure the local community that we have made some great progress in recent months and the project is nearing completion.”

A spokesperson for SWDC said at this stage, the remaining work included minor concrete works, car park and road sealing, berm reinstatement and other minor activities.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This has been a ridiculously slow project. Being by the school it should have been given the upmost priority due to safety for the children and their families. Other smaller jobs around Greytown should have been deprioritised and extra budget (if that’s what was needed) applied to this to complete it faster. This has certainly impacted locals perception of the council in managing their vendors and their delivery of quality outputs.

  2. How do district councils get roading jobs so wrong 🤔? Constantly? Transport department doesn’t know what to do? SWDC is not alone CDC is the same. We need one district council accountable for wairarapa . District councils collect rates like tax why we pay GST a total ripoff.

Comments are closed.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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