Among all the election promises being made in Wairarapa, about road speeds, health, crime and the rest, one local issue has not made the agenda – the ongoing tragedy that is Hinakura Rd.
The rural road failed in June last year, as locals expected it would. Since then, apart from a few meetings and reports, there has been little if any concrete progress.
Two years ago, in winter 2021, part of the road slumped, which meant the young ones going to local kindergartens could no longer be collected at the Hinakura Hall. The school bus driver said it was unsafe for the vehicle, and the children had to walk across the slumped and dangerous road, overhung by massive trees, to reach their bus stop on the other side.
Even then, residents said communication with the South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] had been inadequate.
They had warned that the road was at risk, and they were proved right. On that occasion, a temporary fix meant trucks, cars, and others could get through. Since then, the road has slowly deteriorated to the point where last winter it literally fell down the side of the hill.
And that is where it remains.
As of today, there is no main road through the valley to the closest centre – Martinborough. People who live there have seen their livelihoods steadily erode, along with the road and the hill. Stock, supplies, farm equipment, and everything else must go through Admiral Rd, a narrow and, at best, marginal route.
Residents have been reduced to using a rough four-wheel drive track across private land. The accessway is available due to the goodwill of farmers.
The road is funded and managed by SWDC. Waka Kotahi contributes to local roading funding, to an extent. There is a limit to what it can do due to a lack of funds. Earlier this year, Waka Kotahi refused to help fund what engineers advised was the best route to fix the road. Unfortunately, the best route was also the most expensive, and out of the financial reach of SWDC. There are competing demands on limited funds, and this does not stretch to the millions of dollars needed for one road.
And so there is an impasse.
SWDC wants to fix the road, but do not have the funds for the best option. Waka Kotahi has the funds but, thus far, there has been no offer of the sum of money needed. To be fair, Waka Kotahi did offer some funding, but it fell too far short of the total required for SWDC to make up the balance. So now the council is left to decide which of several lesser options will be best and safest. Engineers have advised most other options will likely be temporary, meaning more money will be needed over time.
One valley resident compared the road situation to Wairoa, where roads have been reinstated expeditiously after the recent cyclone. She observed that the area had declared an emergency, which apparently had helped with funding.
It would be interesting to hear from our local candidates what they think about Hinakura Rd. After all, many other small Wairarapa rural communities could one day soon be in a similar situation.