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An emergency cutting of the Okuru River mouth was carried out earlier this week to prevent it washing out the Haast-Jackson Bay Road.
The river mouth has migrated about 600m north in recent months and is now less than 5m from the road, which is the only access for residents of Okuru, Hannahs Clearing (Haast School), Neils Beach and Jackson Bay.
A Westland District Council spokesman said the unprecedented cutting to straighten the river out to sea was necessary to protect the road on Tuesday.
"If we don't do it we're about to lose the Jackson Bay Road between Haast beach and Okuru."
With more 'red alert tides' expected from Sunday through to next week, the council said the risk was too high to do nothing.
"It's a risk that we can't afford to take," the spokesman said.
The cutting will be done under emergency provisions. This is the first time it has been done on the Okuru River.
"When it has happened in the past, nature will normally take care of it and it will blow out . . . but that hasn't happened.
"We're moving very quickly for two reasons - one is to reduce the risk to our asset; and two is to get it done before (the start of) whitebait season."
Retrospective consent will be sought from the West Coast Regional Council.
"We of course will have to go retrospectively through the resource consent process but we don't have time to do that right now."
The coastal Haast-Jackson Bay Road, which is funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency, was also troubled two years ago by numerous slips brought down over the road between Neils Beach and Jackson Bay wharf, temporarily isolating the fishing port.
- By Janna Sherman of the Hokitika Guardian