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Hinakura resident: “We want our road, not another report’

The Hinakura Valley community in South Wairarapa continues to face severe hardship more than 15 months after their main road collapsed.

Residents have spoken to the Times-Age about needing to use locator beacons instead of calling 111 in medical emergencies, as well as reduced incomes, children unable to get to school, problems transporting stock and goods, and increased workloads as farm workers abandon the area and family members are left to do the heavy lifting.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] representatives acknowledge residents’ frustration and say work is progressing but have no timeframe to fix the road.

Last year in June, after several closures and repairs, a large portion of the main road into the valley from Martinborough slumped down the hill, making it impassable. Now, with the busiest time of the farming year ahead, residents said they urgently need a functioning road.

A recent SWDC statement said the council is getting a geotechnical report, but the community of about 70 has run out of patience.

“We want our road back, not another report,” said Clayton Hartnell, who described how income from homestay accommodation alone has dropped since the road collapsed.

“My homestay income would be about 75 per cent down, not to mention the crops around here – we couldn’t get the harvester out,” he said.

“One review on the website was, ‘Loved the homestay, but wrecked my car getting there’.”

Grant Muir agreed: “Numbers [of visitors] dropped off straight away after the road closed.”

Councillor Aidan Ellims, chair of the council’s infrastructure and community services committee, said fixing the road is important to the council.

“We continue to have oversight and discussion at each meeting of the committee,” he said.

“It is clear from my ongoing discussions with our rural residents that there are social and commercial implications associated with the road. We want to ensure the safety of both residents and visitors while we work to fully reinstate the road. There is a commitment from council to build upon its communications with the community and keep them fully informed and engaged.”

Residents said their rates have still gone up, some by more than 50 per cent, despite using no council services except a recycling bin.

Locals themselves have an arrangement to use a four-wheel-drive route through private property on the Martinborough side of the valley.

Visitors, stock trucks, heavy farm equipment, and others must use Admiral Rd on the Carterton side. This is steep, narrow, and marginal in bad weather, with slips and fallen trees often blocking access. Some are reluctant to use it, while transport businesses are worried about drivers’ safety.

Muir, Kate Reedy, and others also worry about access for emergency services.

They described how in a medical emergency they have used a locator beacon because dialling 111 assumes proper road access.

“Medical emergencies are a worry,” Reedy said.

“My sister got kicked by a cow and dislocated her kneecap. They sent a helicopter after we set off the locator beacon.”

Many farms keep beacons onsite for emergencies like this.

Pip Wilkinson said she has even bought her sons beacons for their 21st birthdays.

Muir said that when a homestead burnt down last year, the fire truck took an hour and a half to arrive because of the broken road.

“The homestead across from me caught fire about 18 months ago. The homestead burnt to the ground. I did the 111 call, and I told them the road was shut, and they’d have to use the Admiral. Two fire trucks still got sent to the closed road, and they had to turn around and come back.

“That’s the predicament we all face here. It’s only a matter of time before there will be a loss of life incident caused by the fact we are totally cut off here,” he said.

Wilkinson said one of her sons has been unable to get to school in Greytown every day, so has moved into a homestay in town.

She compared the still-broken road to Wairoa where the speed of post-cyclone recovery has been impressive.

“They have reinstated their roads,” she said.

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said the community has had enough.

“We have humoured and tolerated the council. They have been given time, our goodwill, and our support.

“They have increased our rates, and they have told us how hard they have been working to resolve this situation.

“They have no doubt spent a lot of money along the way. Yet what have they accomplished? Nothing,”

Stefan Corbett, SWDC group manager of partnerships and operations, recognises the community is frustrated.

“We are progressing the project as quickly as feasibly possible in line with the previously agreed approach,” he said.

Corbett said it is a complex rebuild, and SWDC is working with Waka Kotahi towards a tender process that will identify ground risks.

“Once we have more clarity on timeframes, Hinakura residents will be the first to know. We continue to publish all major documents relevant to the process to be as transparent as possible,” he said. -NZLDR

    Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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