No rally action on road

Silver Fern Rally organisers are dismayed the Central Otago District Council has declined to close one section of road for the "signature stage" of the long-distance car rally.

The council was asked temporarily to close 20 roads for the event on November 17, 19 and 20, mostly around Millers Flat, Maniototo, St Bathans and in the Nevis Valley.

On Wednesday, it agreed to close 18 roads, but declined to grant permission for rally action on two hill country roads from Millers Flat up into the Knobby Range and over to Styx, after an objection by a neighbouring farmer, who said some of his cows would be calving next to one section of the unfenced roadway.

Rally manager Carl Rabbidge said yesterday the "last-minute" decision meant the "signature stage" over back-country roads through the Lake Onslow area would have to shortened and competitors' route books and schedules changed.

The week-long event has attracted 54 entries, including 20 international crews. It begins in Christchurch on November 14, with drivers competing flat-out over more than 1000km of special stages before the event concludes in Queenstown.

Central Otago residents would benefit from the rally, with "substantial donations" to be given for community projects and an overnight stopover also boosting the local economy, he said.

Council roading manager Julie Muir said it was the council's policy to advertise temporary road closures and seek feedback. Four submissions were received - one in support and three raising concerns about the effect rally cars would have on gravel roads.

The rally route goes through part of Minzion Station, at Millers Flat. Owners Peter and Dougal Macdougall told the council there would be ewes lambing and cows calving in paddocks next to the unfenced roadway.

The road was "totally unsuitable for a car rally" in late spring, they said.

Ms Muir said the rally was last held on Central Otago roads in October 2008 and the council received some feedback afterwards that the cars disturbed lambing on nearby farms.

"On these particular roads [this time] I don't think the rally will make a big difference to the condition of the roads."

Her recommendation was for the council to approve closing the roads sought, with the exception of two roads, from Millers Flat over to Styx.

Whatever the council decided, there would be an unhappy party, she said. If all the road closures sought were granted, the residents who objected would be disappointed and if some roads remained open to all traffic, rally organisers would be unhappy.

"But the unhappy party in one instance is a ratepayer," Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper said.

Asked by councillors about the late notice of the application, Ms Muir said council staff had to "chase up" rally organisers about the closures.

Rally organisers applied to use seven roads in the Teviot Valley and Maniototo area on November 17, three Roxburgh roads on November 19, and three at St Bathans, one at Galloway, one at Springvale, four in the Maniototo and Nevis Rd on October 20.


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