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Locked in – again

August 7, 2017 August 2017 No Comments

locked in again
Who takes responsibility for the roads which connect Martinborough to the outside world?

Who will step up to solve one of Martinborough’s increasingly vexing issues – isolation by flooding that leaves a community dependent on farming and tourism virtually cut off from the outside on an increasingly regular basis?

In both April and early July the community was effectively marooned behind a rising tide of river and surface flood waters.

Farmers in some cases were flooded into their land, or had their road access to local townships overwhelmed by water.

In Martinborough, some business owners had to reduce staff by two-thirds or more so out-of-town dwellers could get home safely ahead of the rising river waters.

In some cases they were unable to return to their paid employment for several days. In other cases, business owners dossed down in the town as they were unable to drive out to their out-of-town residence.
Locals out of the district on business faced the reality of being cut off from their residence and forced to find accommodation until the flooding subsided enough.

Basic grocery supplies like daily bread and milk, and daily deliveries of everything from newspapers to mail went by the board for up to three days as major _ and minor _ roads closed and incoming transport links were severed.

Whole weekends, or even weeks, of income were lost to many sectors of tourism which brings visitors to the region: accommodation, food and beverage, transport, rural adventure, sight-seeing and more.

These issues can be seen as rather more than simply the minor irritants of living in a rural community.

But who is responsible for this growing level of community-wide disruption?

Does it sit on the plate of the South Wairarapa District Council?

The meeting table of the Greater Wellington Regional Council? NZ Transport Authority? Martinborough Business Association? The community at large? All of the above?

Local folklore has it that NZTA agreed 15 years ago that the “vulnerable” Waihenga Bridge over the Ruamahanga River needed strengthening to bring it “up to standard.”

Presumably that means a standard which ends the regular charade of it being shut down for use when flood waters reach a certain level?

But the problems go deeper.

Trying to find accurate information on road closures affecting the wider South Wairarapa community is even more perplexing. For both locals and particularly visitors

Web sites GWRC, SWDC, NZTA, AA, FaceBook all completely fail the basic tests of providing up-to-date and usable information.

Worse, apparently not one of these bodies takes responsibility for collating or providing the relevant information to the community or travellers.

Road signage is even worse _ confusing, unreadable, ill-placed and simply out of date at all critical times. As one informant noted, the “electronic” sign near Featherston was rendered useless simply by people stealing its batteries!

News from the Local Government Commission that the amalgamation of Wairarapa’s three local bodies is to proceed muddies tthe flood waters swirling round this part of the region even further.

Who would agree that a Masterton-domiciled and -dominated council will give any priority to such a Martinborough problem _ even though it costs millions of dollars a year in disrupted economic activity? Not many.

Ray Lilley

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