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Scenic reserve state ‘unacceptable’– CDC

Carterton councillors blamed for the undesirable state of Carter Scenic Reserve are copping “some choice language” online, and the district council’s chief executive has had enough.

Going into bat for his councillors, Carterton District Council chief executive Geoff Hamilton has put the hard word on the Department of Conservation [DoC].

In a letter to DoC, Hamilton has described the overgrown boardwalks, trip and slip hazards, and prolific pest plants plaguing the reserve as “unacceptable”.

But any calls for urgent maintenance work won’t be addressed in a hurry, it has been revealed.

In CDC’s latest meeting agenda, correspondence between Hamilton and DoC lays bare the council’s growing list of concerns about the poor maintenance schedule at the much-loved reserve.

He said the current state of Carter Scenic Reserve is deep concern to our community” and noted the council and elected members have taken the heat and suffered reputational damage even though the reserve does not fall under the care of the council.

“We have received numerous complaints and queries about Carter’s Reserve, as the public assume council is responsible for its poor maintenance record,” Hamilton said.

“The issues have been escalated to me by our community, councillors, and most recently, our local hapū who have previously used the reserve as a place to harvest harakeke [flax].

“The mayor, councillors, and I express concern for the safety of our community who visit Carter’s Reserve.

“On a personal note, I also observe Carterton district councillors suffering reputational damage from those blaming council, often on social media and with some choice language, for the poor condition of the road, tracks, boardwalks, and reserve lands.”

He said Carter Scenic Reserve has been deteriorating for some time, “and its current state is unacceptable”.

There are major erosion issues on the driveway into the reserve, with large potholes and washouts making the road hazardous to drive on and not possible to pass oncoming traffic in some places.

Boardwalks are significantly overgrown throughout most of the reserve, and subsidence is occurring on the boardwalks, making them unstable.

Mesh wire used to improve tread grip is lifting and has now become a trip hazard, and moss growing on the boardwalk is a slip hazard.

Creeping weeds are strangling trees, while overgrown vegetation obstructs the paths, making it difficult for visitors to navigate the reserve.

The reserve is also overrun by wild blackberry, and there is a shrinking, now unsustainable, supply of harakeke available for the local Marae Hurunui-o-Rangi.

In response to Hamilton’s letter, DoC’s Lower North Island director of operations Jack Mace said the boardwalk and track are under consideration for replacement “in the next two to three years” through DoC’s capital budget process.

Although the boardwalk is “near the end of its life”, it is safe, Mace said.

“An upgrade of Carter Scenic Reserve would include a new toilet, better signage, boardwalk replacement, and improved accessibility for all users.

“However, the scope of the upgrade will depend on the budget available.”

Mace said that, in the aftermath of recent weather events, DoC will be prioritising the repair and replacement of visitor assets on a national scale.

“As I am sure you can appreciate, the Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti districts have been significantly impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“This means I cannot make any promises that the Wairarapa District Team’s bid for funding for Carter Scenic Reserve will be successful.”

Regarding the significant vegetation overgrowth on the boardwalk, Mace agreed that it is “not acceptable”.

“Due to unseasonable weather and vacancies within the [Wairarapa] team, they have struggled to keep up with vegetation growth across the region.

“Sites are currently being prioritised according to criteria based on safety and visitor numbers, and Carter Reserve will be cleared as soon as the team are able.”

Mace apologised for the fact that CDC is fielding complaints about the reserve and recommended the council refer them to DoC’s Wairarapa District Office.

He also said DoC’s Wairarapa team believes they maintain a good relationship with Hurunui-o-Rangi and will be in touch to discuss the harakeke issue directly with them. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air “of deep concern to our community” and noted the council and elected members have taken the heat and suffered reputational damage even though the reserve does not fall under the care of the council.

“We have received numerous complaints and queries about Carter’s Reserve. The public assume council is responsible for its poor maintenance record,” Hamilton said.

“The issues have been escalated to me by our community, councillors, and most recently, our local hapu who have previously used the reserve as a place to harvest harakeke [flax].

“The mayor, councillors, and I express concern for the safety of our community who visit Carter’s Reserve.

“On a personal note, I also observe Carterton district councillors suffering reputational damage from those blaming council, often on social media and with some choice language, for the poor condition of the road, tracks, boardwalks, and reserve lands.”

He said Carter Scenic Reserve has been deteriorating for some time, “and its current state is unacceptable”.

There are major erosion issues on the driveway into the reserve, with large potholes and washouts making the road hazardous to drive on and not possible to pass oncoming traffic in some places.

Boardwalks are significantly overgrown throughout most of the reserve, and subsidence is occurring on the boardwalks, making them unstable.

Mesh wire used to improve tread grip is lifting and has now become a trip hazard, and moss growing on the boardwalk is a slip hazard.

Creeping weeds are strangling trees, while overgrown vegetation obstructs the paths, making it difficult for visitors to navigate the reserve.

The reserve is also overrun by wild blackberry, and there is a shrinking, now unsustainable, supply of harakeke available for the local Marae Hurunui-o-Rangi.

In response to Hamilton’s letter, DoC’s Lower North Island director of operations Jack Mace said the boardwalk and track are under consideration for replacement “in the next two to three years” through DoC’s capital budget process.

Although the boardwalk is “near the end of its life”, it is safe, Mace said.

“An upgrade of Carter Scenic Reserve would include a new toilet, better signage, boardwalk replacement, and improved accessibility for all users.

“However, the scope of the upgrade will depend on the budget available.”

Mace said that, in the aftermath of recent weather events, DoC will be prioritising the repair and replacement of visitor assets on a national scale.

“As I am sure you can appreciate, the Hawke’s Bay and Tairawhiti districts have been significantly impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“This means I cannot make any promises that the Wairarapa District Team’s bid for funding for Carter Scenic Reserve will be successful.”

Regarding the significant vegetation overgrowth on the boardwalk, Mace agreed that it is “not acceptable”.

“Due to unseasonable weather and vacancies within the [Wairarapa] team, they have struggled to keep up with vegetation growth across the region.

“Sites are currently being prioritised according to criteria based on safety and visitor numbers, and Carter Reserve will be cleared as soon as the team are able.”

Mace apologised for the fact that CDC is fielding complaints about the reserve and recommended the council refer them to DoC’s Wairarapa District Office.

He also said DoC’s Wairarapa team believes they maintain a good relationship with Hurunui-o-Rangi and will be in touch to discuss the harakeke issue directly with them. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for your comment, Adele – I remember Carter’s Bush, as it was then known (60 years ago) as a place that I enjoyed sharing with visiting friends. Now I live near the shores of the Indian Ocean and it pains me that so much of the beauty of the Wairarapa (particularly its waterways) has been lost through careless ignorance.

  2. needs TLC, on a regular basis. if I was younger and fitter I would be there tidying it up.. make it a place to be proud off.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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