Waitaha folk demand action on road

By Brendon McMahon
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Waitaha Valley residents worried their narrow road is an accident waiting to happen will meet with Westland District Council representatives and staff on April 1.
The 11km road services 10 dairy farms, 17 houses, two quarries and potentially the proposed Waitaha River power scheme, if it gets off the ground.
Farmer Katherine McCoy said the single lane 100kph road, while tar-sealed, was essentially the same width as it was for horse drawn vehicles in the pioneering days.
“The road hasn’t change since it was first formed,” she said.
Residents had been pressuring the council about the accident risk in the past six to eight months, in conjunction with the Westland Residents and Ratepayers Association.
They asked for a meeting in the Waitaha Hall but the council has scheduled it for Ross instead.
Mrs McCoy said that alone was a disappointment given that everyone “would experience the problem” road if the meeting were held at Waitaha.
“I think it could be quite vocal.”
She estimated up to 100 traffic movements on the road each day.
“Sixty per cent of these, at least, could be truck and trailer movements a day.”
Mrs McCoy said the road was no longer fit for purpose given the size of modern commercial vehicles servicing the agriculture and mining industries, including daily milk collection by Westland Milk Products tankers, regular movement of rock and schist from the end of the road, and other regular users such as stock and fertiliser trucks and farm vehicles.
“Some of the solutions are not that expensive really, even if they put in passing bays every kilometre.”
Opposing vehicles currently had little or no room to out-manoeuvre each other, with smaller vehicles coming off second best to milk tankers — which were not allowed to reverse — and big trucks.
“Day to day, life can be interesting,” she said.
A particular problem was the one-lane bridge at the beginning of the road, just off State highway 6, with no layby for opposing vehicles coming on to the bridge: “There’s no place to get off if you’ve got a vehicle coming.”
Soft road edges and drains below made much of the 11km road hazardous for vehicles to pull over. Other issues were overhanging vegetation obstructing visibility on S-bends, drains overflowing on to the road, and phone lines going down.
Those issues combined with the road and current lack of cellphone coverage meant residents were particularly vulnerable in an emergency, Mrs McCoy said.
Council district assets group manager Vivek Goel said the meeting had been called for Ross, 22km away, because the Waitaha Hall was “not fit for purpose”.
“I’ve been advised that there are quite a few people turning up,” Mr Goel said.
All residents in the Waitaha Valley had been invited, although he understood trucking interests had also been advised of the meeting.