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Waikaremoana community reaffirms road sealing

The Waikaremoana community has reaffirmed its desire to have the section of State Highway 38, that is outside of Te Urewera boundaries, upgraded and sealed.

The Wairoa District Council has been advocating on behalf of Waikaremoana residents and ratepayers to have the national highway sealed, including working with Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and the Provincial Growth Fund.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the road is a New Zealand Transport Authority road, it is a main highway and Council is simply advocating the message it has been hearing from the Waikaremoana community for more than 30-years.

However, progress was suspended recently when Ngāi Tūhoe voiced its opposition to the use of bitumen to upgrade the mostly gravel road to Onepoto, just before Lake Waikaremoana and outside the Te Urewera boundary, both for environmental reasons and out of fear it would bring an increase in tourists.

Last week the Council went back to the Waikaremoana community to ensure residents and ratepayers still wanted the road sealed.

Mr Little said there was a lot of robust conversation at the hui which attracted at least 100 people.

“It was the biggest meeting the community has had in my time on Council, and the determination of the locals was evidenced by attending on such a cold winter night.”

He said it was unfortunate members of the Te Uru Taumatua, the governing board of Ngāi Tūhoe, were unable to attend the meeting, however, Ngāi Tūhoe Waikaremoana representatives were in attendance.

Sixty-four residents and ratepayers supported the motion that Council continues advocating for the upgrading of SH 38 and secure the entire PGF funding allocation from Mangapapa Bridge to Onepoto.

Four people did not support the motion, and one person abstained from voting.

Mr Little said non-ratepayers and residents were not included in the resolution.

The residents and ratepayers agreed to the project being completed over three stages, with stage one Mangapapa Bridge to Tuai – with sealing outside Piripaua Village prioritised as urgent; Stage two being Tuai to Kaitawa hopefully taking in Kuha and Waimako Marae as per the community aspirations and stage three Kaitawa to Onepoto, which will involve continued conversations with the Waikaremoana community and Ngāi Tūhoe that include alternative sealing solutions.

Mr Little has lived on the lake road for most of his life and knows the shocking damage the unsealed road causes to vehicles and dust contamination to the environment and water supplies which affects people’s health and wellbeing.

“We needed to hear from the community to make sure Council is representing the opinion of the ratepayers and residents so we can report back to Minister Shane Jones and he can be confident that sealing SH38 is what the community want.

“The fact an overwhelming majority of registered ratepayers and residents voted in favour of the sealing is a pretty clear message.”

Mr Little welcomes Ngāi Tūhoe to present some alternative proven sealing options.

“A further aspiration is that Council continues its involvement with the PGF project, and the work be carried out by local contractors, which we believe would mean significant cost savings.

“I spoke to representatives at Minister Shane Jones’ office after the meeting confirming the community’s stance, and we are still very hopeful this funding will come to fruition.

“It is a shame we have experienced these delays, particularly as the section of State Highway 38 Council is advocating to seal is not within Te Urewera.

“We look forward to working in a positive way with Ngāi Tūhoe and are presently trying to arrange a meeting to discuss a way forward including hearing about their trial sites of their alternative road surface, the road to nature, in line with stage three of the resolution put forward to the floor by the Waikaremoana community.”

11 July 2019

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