Authorities want road to stay closed

A blocked vehicle track to the beach at Warrington was not closed using the proper legal process, lawyers have advised, but the authorities want the road to stay closed anyway.

The road at the corner of Bank and Bay Rds has divided the small seaside settlement since it was closed in 2008 because of concern the narrow track was unsafe for vehicle use and contributed to damage to the road reserve and coastal dunes.

A recent survey by the Waikouaiti Coast Community Board, instigated following a request from some community members to have the road reopened, revealed people were still split on the matter.

The board asked the Dunedin City Council to consider keeping the track closed to vehicles and the council's subsequent legal advice found ''the correct process was not followed to implement the permanent restriction on vehicles using the track to access the beach'', a report due to be considered by the council's infrastructure services committee tomorrow says.

But council officers still had concerns about the track's safety.

The council's senior traffic engineer was worried about the steepness of the track, lack of traction, lack of visibility, lack of separation between vehicles and vulnerable road users and historic/likely parking habits.

Police and the Ministry of Transport agreed the track should remain closed to vehicles until those safety concerns were addressed.

The use of motor vehicles in an area of significant conservation value was also not supported by the council's reserves and recreation planning department unless any likely environmental impacts were assessed and mitigated.

If the track was reopened to vehicles without providing adequate surface protection, any deep rutting (as had previously happened) might damage new optic fibre cable laid under the track, transportation policy engineer Jon Visser said.

The track would also need to be widened as vegetation had re-established.

The council already provided safe access to the beach for vehicles and parking at the Warrington recreation reserve, about 650m from the track, Mr Visser said.

The most appropriate course of action was for councillors to authorise a temporary vehicle closure of the track while other options were investigated, he said. That would include whether it was possible to bring the track up to council's required standards and how much that would cost.

If councillors decided it was not feasible to reopen the road a permanent restriction could be imposed through a bylaw process, which would be publicly consulted on, he said.

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