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Progress in East end saga

Building work at Harrison St East, Featherston. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN


Marcus Anselm

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The brains behind Featherston’s Harrison St East housing development remains upbeat despite covid-19 related construction delays, flooding concerns, and worries over the changing streetscape.

Ian McComb, of Brookside Developments said landscaping work began on the southern side of Harrison St East, which is zoned for urban development in May, after six weeks of downed tools.

It will introduce more lighting, trees, and a walkway.

The road, on the town’s north eastern edge, runs for 1km, parallel to State Highway 2. It is a combination of industrial, special rural, urban, and floodplain land, according to Wairarapa’s Combined District Plan, which is up for renewal next year.

However, the changes have narrowed the road, which was originally wide to allow for trucks travelling between industrial sites.

The reduction has received some attention on local social media channels.

Deputy Mayor Garrick Emms raised the matter at last week’s town community board meeting.

Emms said that there had been little community engagement on the changes.

Mayor Alex Beijen said the development of housing had “triggered the requirement for separation” of the road to allow for safety measures such as pedestrian walkways, and lighting.

“What is going on there is actually very positive for Featherston.”

Board chair Mark Shepherd said he had measured out the road, and not only did it still fit width requirements, but also matched the nearby State Highway 2.

The road had been created by the old Ministry of Works to accommodate trucks. The usual requirements in New Zealand for roads were a lane in either direction that is 3.25m wide, plus a 50cm shoulder on either side – which can be increased to 1.2metres if designed for cyclists.

McComb said, he was “pretty sure people will be happy with it once it’s finished”.

“It’s something different, so there’s a bit of resistance to change.

“But apart from that, it will be over the minimum width for lanes. And there’ll be trees there, so it will be more pleasant than it was.”

Dozens of sections are available on a patch of land close to Donald’s Creek, which was the source of major flooding in 1994.

On the northern side of the street, a stopbank was constructed to combat heavy flows, but the town’s east end suffered during heavy rains in 2006 and 2018

David Famularo, a resident of nearby Fitzherbert St, said the threat remains.

Famularo has had long running concerns over flooding in the area. He said the most recent flooding was evidence that the problem remains, and alternative designs proposed more than 20 years ago would have given better protection in heavy rains.

And the situation may worsen if more building starts on farmland sold earlier this year, next to the stopbank.

He said new residents may have to accept “flooding as part and parcel of life”.

“We are going to have a situation where the problems are going to compound, and the solutions are going to become ever more expensive.

“If the current council doesn’t want to reconsider the original rejected option, they will need to find another way to channel excess water away from the properties.

“Either that, or the council will simply expect property owners in this area to accept flooding as part and parcel of life.”

McComb is a former flood engineer with local councils in New Zealand and Australia. He said he was “very confident I’ve got the flood stuff handled”.

He had worked with other engineers on models of managing water in the area.

“But I’m also looking at the wider areas, because right from the start, the houses I’m building will have to be on half-metre piles. So they, essentially, will never get wet.”

But he said he also saw that “there’s already existing problems on the Boundary Rd/Fitzherbert St corner”.

“Some of those properties on Fitzherbert are already at risk.

“So, I’m actually interested in talking to regional council about the wider issues.

“And when we get the second model done, [I’m] proposing to work with regional council, Wellington Water, and local council, on a solution that will help fix the wider problems as well.”

The tiny homes portion of the development was on South Wairarapa District Council’s planning committee agenda last Wednesday.

That part of the build was on hold, as McComb looks “to reach alignment with council on the affordable housing development”.

The new housing scheme will include a new street, which McComb has suggested should be called “Hapori Common”.

Hapori is the Maori name for community, the idea behind the development. Community Common and Brookside Common were the alternative names offered.

The community board discussed the name at its Tuesday meeting, and has referred it to the council’s Maori Standing Committee.


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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