Central Otago Helicopters a waste: farmers

Old Dunstan Rd. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Old Dunstan Rd. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Farmers in the Paerau/Styx valley are concerned the Central Otago District Council (CODC) is spending money on a helicopter to fly in staff to close gates on six roads for the winter, but the council says it is very cost efficient.

Jim Hore told the Otago Daily Times he and other farmers could easily lock the gates and save the council money.

Central Otago District Council (CODC) roading manager Julie Muir said using a helicopter cost $2,700, taking it three hours to fly around all the gates and lock them.

Before the council started using a helicopter, it took several staff in four-wheel-drive vehicles four days at a cost of $2,500, Ms Muir said.

Each winter, from the Tuesday after Queens Birthday to the last Monday in September, the council closes: the Lake Onslow Rd from Linnburn Runs Rd (Blackball) to the boundary gate at Lake Onslow, Old Dunstan Rd from Linnburn Runs Rd to Poolburn Dam, Old Dunstan Rd from Patearoa Paerau Rd to Styx gate on the Dunedin City Council boundary, Nevis Rd from Commissioners Creek to Southland District boundary, Bridge Huts Rd from Bridge 185 and Upper Manorburn Dam Rd from Aston Rd.

"Often the weather conditions are such that we have been unable to get to some of the gates due to snow, or the roads have been very wet and driving on them in order to check there is no-one on them causes further damage," Ms Muir said.

The decision to use the helicopter was made four years ago when staff walked the last kilometre to some of the gates in order to get the locks on, and sometimes they had to work in snow.

Doing it by helicopter was much safer, she said.

"We can safely and easily check that there are no vehicles on the roads when the locks are going on, without causing any damage to the road. Because the trip is only three hours it also frees staff up to do other work," she said.

Ms Muir said no-one had approached the council or contractors Fulton Hogan and offered to close the gates.

Placing locks on public roads was not an activity the council would generally pass on to a member of the public, and it was essential the roads were checked to ensure no-one was locked in, she said.

Mr Hore said there were five gates on Blackball Rd and the council only locked one.

Pig hunters and others wanting to use Old Dunstan Rd could easily gain access to the area through the other four gates, and he was sick of pig hunters getting in and making a mess of the roads.

"The roads are already in a bad state of repair and the council is not doing anything about it," he said.


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