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Repair delay contributes to anxiety

Urgent repairs to failing Hinakura Rd in South Wairarapa are delayed, with valley residents fearing the worst as winter approaches.

The South Wairarapa road near Martinborough suffered a series of severe slumps over the past two years, making it intermittently impassable and trapping residents in the valley below.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] group manager, partnerships and operations Stefan Corbett told a recent Martinborough Community Board [MCB] meeting that work had been affected by covid and tropical cyclone Dovi.

“There has been a delay to completing this work. It has been hindered by staffing absenteeism due to covid-19. This has affected our SWDC teams, our contractors’ teams, and has affected key engineering staff at the regional council,” Corbett said.

An urgent response to cyclone Dovi in mid-February placed extra demands on staff.

“We are working hard to make up for lost time,” he said.

He said the road had remained open to all traffic since before Christmas.

A SWDC spokesperson said new timeframes for the project were being developed.

“The project plan as it stands does not reflect the work that is underway on Hinakura Road. Events mentioned in the monthly update have delayed progress as originally outlined. However, it is important to note that the road is open to all traffic at reduced speeds, and was remediated at short notice pre-Christmas. Despite the adverse weather conditions since, it has stood up to it. Work continues, focused on catching up,” they said.

“The plan and new timeframes are in the process of being updated and will be shared as soon as it becomes available.”

After the MCB meeting, chair Mel Maynard said more details were needed.

“At the MCB meeting members asked for an update on the Hinekura Road and the work programme being completed for its repair. We are waiting for the update from council,” she said.

Hinakura valley resident Pip Wilkinson said residents were worried upcoming bad weather would damage the fragile road further.

“It’s just incredibly frustrating that it has been stalled,” she said.

“It’s equally frustrating we are now steering towards winter and wetter months and no earthworks have begun. This should have been actioned a long time before now.”

She said people were nervous because in the last fortnight there had been about a foot of movement in the road. More rain soon meant the slump above the road could cause problems.

“This should have all been well removed before now. We have had to request updates as there has been nothing from council. After a very positive meeting at the hall months ago, it is very disappointing.

“We just want action,” she said.

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“Emergencies are a cause for concern, because if the road is closed because of the weather we can’t rely on the helicopter service either.”

The only alternative route into the valley, Admiral Rd, was narrow and dangerous for many vehicles.

“It was also suggested a tank be put at the woolshed and filled by water trucks so the dam could be decommissioned months ago. This seemed to be positively received by engineers, but the dam is still in use,” Wilkinson said.

Last September David Boone from Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] presented a report to the assets and services committee of SWDC setting out a three-stage plan to fix the road.

The report described the damage as ‘an active landslide’ approximately 450m long and 100m wide, which was prone to movement and instability following heavy rain. In December, the area
suffered further damage.

Boone thought it unlikely work could start until an alternate site for the nearby reservoir had been found.

He said finding the alternate water source as a first step was critical, so the affected landowner had a water supply in place before the other work started.

At the time, he estimated work should take between 10 and 12 months to finish.

A SWDC spokesperson confirmed that the dam had not yet been relocated.

They said the dam location had been established using drone and physical data. The next step was to establish the actual dam with the regional council engineer.

Corbett confirmed work would happen in April to form drains across the face of the hill, to enable controlled runoff to discharge points.

Further work would also be done to improve stability and reduce movement at the site. In the meantime, tree removal work was complete. GWRC had confirmed the tree work was satisfactory and the ground ready for planting.

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