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Road of broken illusions

Hinekura Rd in Martinborough is in a desperate state of disrepair. PHOTO/FILE

Farming families of the Hinekura Valley near Martinborough are having a hard winter. It could get a lot worse.

Don McCreary, a landowner, made an emotional appeal at the Martinborough Community Board meeting last week.

He spoke on behalf of most of the Hinekura community of about 70 people.

Hinekura Rd was closed to all traffic after bad weather caused it to collapse further last month.

While the semi-collapsed road into the valley was now open again to light vehicles, it was still too unsafe for heavy vehicles.

This meant it was difficult to move many essential farming goods and supplies.

“Hinekura rural ratepayers have been taken advantage of and not serviced adequately,” McCreary said.

“I once believed we would pay our rates and be looked after for doing so. I now don’t hold that belief.

“What do we have to do to get our road fixed?”

He said proactive repair work could have happened during the past two summers, but instead the road had become more fragile and vulnerable to weather events.

“Why is there no action?

“We still have no heavy traffic access with most businesses refusing to come through the dangerous alternative route [Admiral Rd].”

A fuel delivery service had come through once and refused to come again because of the risks. Another driver reported pools of water with truck wheels close to a 100-metre bluff.

“Truck access is essential to our businesses. No trucks, no business. It’s that simple,” he said.

“It’s also about the safety of our families. Children and others are put at risk. We have children walking to meet the school bus under pine trees at a 45-degree angle.

“Someone is going to get killed.”

McCleary said there had been a very long period of no communication from South Wairarapa District Council, but that had changed.

Martinborough Transport manager Josh Hawkins said he had difficulty collecting sheep from Pahaoa Station last week.

“A job which should have taken about three hours ended up taking all day.” He said two trips were needed because the road could not support a large trailer.

“It’s so dry they are short on cattle feed. They need to get hay baled in or the cattle out.

“The council need to get moving faster. If it’s not done soon, it’s going to be a pretty tough winter for the farmers.”

Thomas Kershaw of T Kershaw agricultural contracting said his firm almost had heavy equipment stuck in the valley, but had luckily removed the harvester and tractor before the road collapsed.

“The road’s been like that for two years. We are going to come into the busy season soon. A lot of these guys rely on having baleage brought in or cash crops planted. We can’t do that if the road is closed for us.

“There’s a health and safety discussion. We can’t be going across there if it’s not safe.”

The council had increased its communications with the affected people through regular email updates. A report on the state of the road was tabled at the Thursday meeting.

Council chief executive Harry Wilson said the road damage was a complex issue and there were no easy solutions.

“This is a whole hillside moving under and above the road.

“It is dynamic and a moving situation,” Wilson said, saying the problems of six or 12 months ago were different from the problems now.

Water flows were affecting the hillside and Wilson said advice from geotechnical experts was to monitor the situation to ensure it was fully understood.

“I feel so sorry for the people that are affected. If the hillside went, there is no road, so we have to do this properly.”

A council spokesperson at the meeting said a geotechnical engineer had been onsite three times and draft feedback was expected this week, together with an announcement about heavy truck access.

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