HEREPURU Road resident Cliff Cairn says he and his neighbours are not getting their money’s worth for rates as their rural road remains unsealed more than eight years after the Whakatane District Council reprioritised spending.
Mr Cairn said the road “got to number three” on the list of roads prioritised for tarsealing before the council abandoned it in order to address more urgent needs.
Mr Cairn said he and others on the road had been waiting 33 years for a safer road.
“I have lived here for 33 years and previously the council had promised to tarseal the road,” said Mr Cairn.
“It started out okay, with tarsealing done at either end of the road, then our road went down the list. Our rates continue to increase and so does the population of Herepuru Road.
Despite an increase in rates we see little for it, we don’t even get a rubbish collection here.”
While there are concerns with safety regarding the at times narrow gravel road, Mr Cairn also said there were issues with maintenance and water running off the road and through his farm, which was lower than the road.
When grading was done, Mr Cairn said it wasn’t done correctly as ruts soon appeared on the road.
“We’ve had head-ons and I don’t know how many near misses, as people drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the ruts,” he said.
“These usually appear within two days of them doing the grading.”
Water running through his farm is also a problem.
A dam was installed on his farm to prevent this happening, but Mr Cairn said during heavy rainfall water often overflowed from the dam and flowed through to a stream, which eventually went out to sea.
“Not only is it eroding my land it’s washing pollution out to sea,” said Mr Cairn.
“Come on council, look after us rural ratepayers. You seem to find money for other projects.”
Council transportation manager Martin Taylor said the council did have a policy to seal sections of its 200 kilometre network of unsealed roads but reprioritised its work programmes in 2012 for “urgently required” stormwater improvements throughout the district.
“However, the council-elected members have indicated to staff that they may want to review the seal extension policy through the upcoming 2021-31 long term plan process and consider whether or not to restart the seal extension programme,” said Mr Taylor.
“A report on the seal extension policy is likely to go to council later this year for consideration. When the seal extension programme was discontinued in 2012, Herepuru Road was one of the roads near the top of the list for re-sealing.”
Mr Taylor said maintenance on the road was a mix of scheduled maintenance work which occurred on a regular basis and emergency works in response to events.
“A significant programme of drainage upgrades have been carried out along Herepuru Road over the last 10 years, with an upcoming culvert renewal the last of this planned package of work,” he said.
However, Mr Taylor said most of Mr Cairn’s issues related to land management and the council had done “as much as it can” for him in relation to the road boundary.
A video provided by Mr Cairn during heavy rainfall in 2017 shows multiple streams of water flowing through his property from the road cutouts, which Mr Taylor said was how they were supposed to operate.
“The issue for Mr Cairn is when water from various sources converges at the bottom of his gully,” Mr Taylor said.
“Mr Cairn owns land, some of which is lower than surrounding land and therefore collects water from higher catchments. This is a matter Mr Cairn needs to discuss with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and has been doing so for some time.”
Mr Taylor said most councils were similar to Whakatane in that they serviced large, sparsely populated rural areas which generally had a corresponding network of unsealed roads that they managed “as prudently as they can”.
“This usually involves general maintenance and renewals, chipping away at improvement programmes over time as budgets and competing priorities across the council allow.”
Mr Taylor said the best way people could influence the council’s seal extension policy and programme was through the long term plan process when budgets were set.
Submissions through this process help the council gauge community support and priorities.