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South Wairarapa’s neglected people

Hinakura Rd in Martinborough is in a desperate state of disrepair. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

70 residents stranded on a road too dangerous for essential services
Valley residents remain cut off

A rural South Wairarapa community of more than 70 people, including young children, remains cut off from their closest town after the main access road sustained major damage in this week’s flooding.

Many residents in the isolated Hinakura Valley work in Martinborough or have children at school there.

Now, vehicles cannot get through, leaving children as young as five to walk across the slumped, muddy and dangerous road to reach their school bus.

Hinakura Rd, already marginal after slippage last winter, was further damaged on Monday trapping rural residents and preventing large vehicles getting through.

The only alternative route into the valley through Admiral Rd was also closed this week, meaning the small community was completely isolated.

On Wednesday, South Wairarapa District Council posted on their Facebook page that Hinakura Rd was closed from Longbush Rd to Moeraki Rd.

“Hinakura Rd is impassable – we’re working to get the road open as soon as possible.” the council said.

They updated their post on Thursday to say the road remained closed.

The closure is outside Martinborough, after the turnoff to Longbush Rd.

Bec Nicholson lives in the valley with her husband and two children, aged four and one.

Their home is 11 kilometres past the slippage.

“I was pregnant when the first damage happened. I was just praying the road would be open when I delivered,” she said.

She described how the road was slowly receding.

“On the upper side of the road there is a farm. The whole paddock is moving down on to the road. Water from the paddock is coming in under the road and the whole road is shifting.”

Nicholson said essential services such as medical help, fuel, and transport had become unreliable as operators were unwilling to take their chances with the dangerous road.

“No emergency services are able to come through Hinakura Rd. We need vets, fuel, and gas deliveries.

“Multiple gas companies have said the roads are too bad and they might not be delivering here anymore.”

She said the school bus could no longer get through and school children, some as young as five, were having to walk across the damaged road to meet the bus on the other side.

“Many of the families have children at Martinborough School. Some kids go to Kuranui College.

“The bus used to come to everyone’s gates. Parents are now having to drive their kids to where the road closes, walk them through the slump and the bus meets them all at Hikawera.

“A lot of parents have dropped their kids off in the bad weather.”

Teachers and a teacher’s aide who live in the valley were unable to get to their jobs in Martinborough this week.

After the damage last year, engineers had looked at the road but little had been done.

“All that was done is gravel had been put on and it’s been graded,” she said.

Nicholson’s husband had asked contractors onsite on Wednesday what their plan was.

“The contractor said, ‘I have no idea what to do’.”

Martinborough Transport manager Josh Hawkins said the road was too dangerous for his big trucks.

The company is Wairarapa’s biggest livestock and cartage firm with a fleet of more than 15.

It regularly services the rural community across South Wairarapa.

He said large trucks could not get through at the moment.

“There was a major slip some time ago,” he said.

“They closed it to heavy vehicles at the time for a week or so.”

Hawkins said no noticeable work had been done on the damage since.

“The road is very narrow and has slumped away. I think it would be quite a major to stop it slipping. It’s quite a biggie.”

He said the road was unsafe for large vehicles, but a small truck got through on Wednesday.

“It’s all slipped away with water running across the road. It didn’t look safe at all.”

Hawkins said several farms were affected by the slip, although people with four-wheel drives were getting through.

There was an alternative route, but it was much longer.

“That is marginal at the best of times. It would be very inconvenient for the farmers there,” he said.

Nicholson said the alternative route through Admiral Rd on the Masterton side was closed earlier this week.

That route went through Gladstone and was much longer. It did not help children needing to get to school in Martinborough.

She could not understand how the council managed to have significant roading projects in town, while apparently ignoring the struggling rural sector.

“It’s so disheartening seeing all these roadworks being done in town and nothing up here. There’s just nothing.

Road closure on Hinakura Rd. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

“We have had a temporary 30km go-slow sign up here for the last nine years.

“We are paying obscene amounts of rates for roading and other things we never see. What is it going to take?” she asked.

A council spokesperson said Hinekura Rd was closed to all traffic between Longbush Rd and Moeraki Rd until the end of the weekend.

“There is road subsidence between Hikawera Rd and Moeraki Rd with a detour starting at Longbush Rd.

“The subsidence has been caused by water coming down the hillside above a section of the road.

“We’re removing trees in the area today and over the next few days, and completing some temporary repairs to allow for light vehicle access.

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