State of pass road upsets residents

Danseys Pass residents Mary Hore (left) and Jo Todd inspect the washed-out mountain pass road....
Danseys Pass residents Mary Hore (left) and Jo Todd inspect the washed-out mountain pass road. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Motorists travelling through the expansive tussock country of  Danseys Pass are drawn to the mountain  route for many reasons.

Often, says local woman Jo Todd, it is emotion that is behind the trip which links the Waitaki district to Central Otago.

"It’s an iconic road ...  it’s on their bucket list. It’s a road that polarises people — people hate it or love it. People always have stories about the road."

They shared those stories when they stopped at her lavender farm and shop and often conversations mentioned the state of the road.

Last  week, Mrs Todd and neighbour Mary Hore expressed disgust at the road’s condition on the Waitaki side of the pass.

Mrs Hore and husband Neville have farmed in the pass for 40 years and their farm tracks were better than the road, she said.

She has recently repeatedly contacted the Waitaki District Council about  the potholes, corrugations, deep gouges and amount of gravel washed off on to the roadsides. She was frustrated by the lack of action, particularly with more vehicles using the road over Easter. Ex-tropical cyclone Gita brought heavy rain to the area earlier in the year and, after later contacting the council, Mrs Hore was told a grader was coming to work on  the road.

Then she was told there was no grader to do the job — which was why it had not been done — and then that a road inspector had viewed the road and believed it did not justify any more grading than it was getting.

"If someone has an accident on this road and the council has been rung at least five times, who takes liability?" Mrs Hore  asked.

If a crash closed State Highway 1  south of the Mill House at Waianakarua, then there was no other route available for some travellers apart from Danseys Pass, she said. The difference between the Waitaki and the Central Otago side was  evident. The Central Otago side was "up to scratch", Mrs Hore said.

Traffic had increased since the Otago Central Rail Trail and the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail had opened and she estimated at least 100 vehicles  travelled the road  each day over summer.

Mrs Todd said those unfamiliar with the road tended to drive in the middle of it and they were often afraid of the corrugations, which could push a vehicle  out to the edge.

An Auckland woman organising a tour for older people felt the road was not suitable for them to travel on.

Council roading manager Michael Voss said the council was aware there were  increasing traffic volumes on the road, particularly visitors. While the road received three to four grades annually, with the most recent  carried out at the end of January and the next due this month,  the council did do additional spot grading and metalling "when and where needed" should traffic or storm events — the last on February 20 — affect the surfacing, and following customer requests.

It was possible a traction seal would be laid on  the key hill sections, which would  eliminate  the more aggressive corrugations. 

The cost was estimated to be more than $2 million.

"We’d like to encourage farmers and contractors to contact us when they’re aware of upcoming special traffic needs so that we can look at the possibility of adjusting our upgrade and maintenance plans.

"Having forewarning will have less disruption for users and help keep costs down. This approach has worked with some success in other parts of the district," Mr Voss said.

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