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Mayor proposes change to SH53

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] will look further into an option to terminate State Highway 53 at the entrance to Martinborough.

Mayor Martin Connelly put forward a report on the topic as extraordinary business at Wednesday’s Infrastructure and Community Services Committee meeting, but the item was not added to the agenda or discussed because it failed to win a majority consensus.

Connelly’s report – which is no longer available on the council’s website – proposed that SWDC “agree in principle to request Waka Kotahi to terminate SH53 near to the entrance of Martinborough”, subject to community consultation.

“The reason for this is that Martinborough has many events that run best if both SH53 and the surrounding roads are closed or restricted,” Connelly’s report said.

“For the organisers of those events, this means two applications [one to the SWDC and one to Waka Kotahi] for road closures.

“In turn, that adds to the costs experienced by event organisers.

“If Waka Kotahi agrees to our termination request, then we make things that much simpler, easier, and cheaper for event organisers.”

In his report, Connelly said the termination of a state highway was “usually a straightforward process”.

“There will be some discussion about the right place to do the termination.

“People normally assume that a termination would take place at Princess St.

“However, the intersection of SH53 and Princess St is a dangerous intersection and if, at some time in the future, the council wished to modify that intersection, it would be much easier if the council had full control of it.”

Regarding costs and benefits, Connelly’s report said SWDC would be responsible for the costs of the road, “and as this is a heavily used road, we would be paying for the next resealing”.

“The benefits are to festival organisers and community groups that use that stretch of road for fairs etc.

“There would also be a benefit if the council decided to implement safety improvements at Princess St.”

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, councillor Alistair Plimmer asked what the urgency was on the item being added to the agenda as extraordinary business.

Connelly said the level of urgency related to “the social benefit for the people of Martinborough” and mentioned the Martinborough Business Association had been asking the council for a long time for action on this issue.

“I think also if we go back to the community board minutes, I think we will find the same thing.

“It’s something that is overdue for a decision.”

Plimmer said he didn’t recall any community board minutes on the matter in the past three years and was concerned about bringing an item onto the agenda under urgency “that will involve ratepayer money and maintenance for the benefit of effectively commercial activities”.

“I’m not quite sure that rushing this is the smart thing to do here,” Plimmer said.

“The costs of rushing this may far outweigh the benefit to the community.”

Councillor Aidan Ellims, who was formerly a member of the Martinborough Community Board, said there had been informal discussions on the issue, but there hadn’t been a formal proposal through the board.

Councillors then went to a vote that was recorded at 4-3 against introducing the item to the agenda on Wednesday.

Plimmer suggested council officers come back to the committee with a thorough report on the issue.

“If this is something the mayor wants to raise, then it should be done as a matter of due process, not as a matter of urgency.”

After the meeting, it was discovered that the vote was actually a deadlock 4-4 [for: Melissa Sadler-Futter, Aaron Woodcock, Aidan Ellims, and Connelly; against: Pip Maynard, Plimmer, Martin Bosely, and Rebecca Gray].

After the error had been noted Sadler-Futter told Local Democracy Reporting that in the event of a split vote, she would have voted against the motion “simply because I was comfortable with the action which had been raised of asking the officers to bring a report back to the committee on the matter”. -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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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