Frustration as Goughs Bay still cut off after slips

Goughs Bay farmers are used to isolation, but imagine walking mile after mile in Sandie Stewart's shoes.

More than five weeks after torrential rain set off a series of giant mudslides that washed away the Banks Peninsula road, the only way out is a steep hike over a saddle to neighbouring Paua Bay.

That means backpacking groceries for her family of four, weighed down by litres of milk and other essentials.

"It's a mission. I'm going to be very strong and mulish after this," she said.

The deluge on 15 December sent slips from summit to sea in the peninsula's eastern bays, cutting roads, power and phone lines.

The scale of the storm damage is staggering, with 34 slips along the road to Goughs Bay and a total wash-out above neighbour Marie Haley's homestead.

"It is phenomenal. The damage is just beyond what you can imagine. My family has been here since 1865, seven generations, and nothing has ever happened like this," she said.

Marie Haley has to deal with a total wash-out above her homestead Goughs Bay after a storm...
Marie Haley has to deal with a total wash-out above her homestead Goughs Bay after a storm damaged the area. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
Haley is mourning "paradise lost" - a soft meadow surrounded by ribbonwood trees and mature forest that now resembles a boulder-strewn West Coast river.

"The whole river system has been ripped out. It's like a bomb has gone off. I have lost something very special to me," she said.

While access was quickly restored to other bays, Christchurch City Council cannot say when the road to Goughs Bay will reopen.

Sandie Stewart and her husband Lyndon Palmer have lost 30km of fencing and cannot get heavy machinery onto the property to clean up tonnes of logs, boulders, and rubbish while they remain cut off.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
"The slips took out the fences like trawler nets, they grabbed all of the trees and all of the grass. A lot of those fences are now tangled up at the bottom of the flats. It's worse than starting from scratch," she said.

A stream that used to meander to the shore is now an ugly gash through Goughs Bay with brown, silty sludge choking the pasture on the valley floor.

Stewart is worried about navigating the treacherous farm track in the rain with their two children, or being trapped if the road is not fixed by winter.

"Last I heard it could be another couple of months, it might be six months. In the winter, it's going to be in the dark and it's going to be a nightmare. It's going to be miserable," she said.

She does not know if she will be able to keep her job in Akaroa and is contemplating months of remote learning for her daughters.

It has been a mission for Sandie Stewart to travel back and forth after torrential rain set off a...
It has been a mission for Sandie Stewart to travel back and forth after torrential rain set off a series of giant mudslides that washed away the main road in Goughs Bay. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
John and Carol Masefield have been using the same farm track to take rubbish out and bring groceries home, which is a 25-minute quad bike trip one-way.

"It's okay at the moment because all the gates are open, but we had a count-up if the gates were closed, there would be 16 gates to open and shut, which would make for quite a long trip just to go into Akaroa," Carol Masefield said.

"Even if there's a dew on the track it can be quite slippery. The council hasn't even been down the track. They don't know what we have to negotiate to get in and out of the bay."

The lack of road access has caused other logistical headaches, like finding a way to send stock to the works, but they have rebuilt a bridge washed away in the flood by flying material in by helicopter.

John Masefield said he was disappointed by the lack of communication from the council, which did not seem to have a plan to fix the road.

"It's dangerous. I would have thought that the council could have made some plans by now, let us know what their thoughts are, instead of leaving us in the dark," he said.

Farmers in the bay said they had not heard from deputy mayor and Banks Peninsula councillor Andrew Turner.

John and Carol Masefield have been using the same farm track to take rubbish out and bring...
John and Carol Masefield have been using the same farm track to take rubbish out and bring groceries home, which is a 25min quad bike trip each way. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
Palmer said the council's response had been "pretty crap".

"There have been no phone calls whatsoever," he said.

"I just want to know what's going on. I understand that the road is knackered and it's going to take a lot to get it sorted, but they need to let us know. If this was in Christchurch, she'd be back to normal now, but it sort of feels like we've been left behind."

The council's head of transport and waste management, Lynette Ellis, said staff were still assessing the damage and planning repairs.

"Once the repair methodologies have been agreed, we will be able to supply estimated timeframes for completion," she said in a statement.

"Council's city streets maintenance staff have been speaking to residents in Goughs Road to talk through the issues and options, including temporary access requirements. As soon as estimated timeframes for repair are finalised, we will be updating residents, the wider affected area and the public."

The damaged main road at Goughs Bay. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
The damaged main road at Goughs Bay. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
The prospect of more drenching rain fills Marie Haley with dread.

"When they forecast Cyclone Cody coming, it was terrifying. It gave me heart palpitations because all of the debris may come back down onto our drive again," she said.

"The middle of winter to us now means rolling rocks coming down the hill."

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

 

 

 

 

 

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