Town frustrated as work slips away

Volunteer Ben Gold works 
...
Volunteer Ben Gold works on a culvert to take stormwater and drain the area above the road in 2015. PHOTO: JANE CARLYON
Haven St is full of potholes and loose gravel.
Haven St is full of potholes and loose gravel.
The rebuilt part of Haven St is sinking further down.
The rebuilt part of Haven St is sinking further down.
The 400m stretch of Haven St rebuilt by the Waitaki 
District Council in 2015.
The 400m stretch of Haven St rebuilt by the Waitaki District Council in 2015.
Almost six years after one of New Zealand’s more unusual roading ventures was hailed a success, the road is slipping away and there is no solution in sight.
 
While some Moeraki residents behind the community-led project to rebuild the quickest route into town believe they have an answer, the Waitaki District Council says it may have to close the road to through traffic once again. Kayla Hodge reports.
 

Dust hangs in the air as cars navigate their way into the picturesque seaside town of Moeraki.

Gravel follows suit, being flung up at every chance along the length of the troublesome Haven St.

It is a road lined with sunken patches, filled in with the gravel in an attempt to smooth off the damage created through the years.

Haven St resident Stan Lusby says motorists ignore the speed signs, and is concerned someone will...
Haven St resident Stan Lusby says motorists ignore the speed signs, and is concerned someone will die on the broken up street. PHOTOS: KAYLA HODGE
A 400m strip of the street rebuilt by the community is slowly slipping further away, and rubble is running down the road as a result.

But former resident Bill Pile looks out on the patch with a sense of accomplishment.

Mr Pile was one of the driving forces behind rebuilding the strip, after it was closed by the Waitaki District Council for two years.

The council decided in August 2013 the road would stay closed because of the ongoing cost of trying to keep it open.

However, Mr Pile and the community refused to accept that.

And by December 2014 the community had offered to rebuild the street, and within two months, they got to work.

Seven core volunteers poured 3330 hours of work into the street in the next five months, and the road was officially reopened and handed back to the council in July 2015.

"I said to my grandkids at the opening, ‘Granddad is proud of what we have done here’," Mr Pile said.

The group drained water ponds near the road and created a wall out of concrete power poles at the bottom, which had been very successful.

Building the actual street was "just all common sense" but soon enough, it began to break again.

The rebuilt patch was sinking and breaking up; the majority of Haven St had been reduced to a speed limit of 30kmh and there were potholes throughout.

"I never ever dreamt we’d be back to the situation we are at."

He only had one response to the issue — "something has to be done".

He believed the problems lay underground — with water and sewerage lines — and wanted to see something done about it.

"They’ve got to fix the sewerage line — that’s the number one in my mind."

Haven St resident Stan Lusby was angry at the situation, and said it was a lack of drainage causing the slips.

Mr Lusby, a former chartered surveyor, said one solution would be for the council to install underground tunnels to aid the drainage, similar to that used on cattle farms.

"The head of water builds up until she’s had enough down below and then it’s boofed out — it’s all water pressure," he said.

"Roads are a poor dam, so it gives way. It gets worse and worse all the time."

He had lived in Haven St for 32 years, and experienced frustration and fear at the street’s condition.

"All it takes is 36 hours of rain for more potholes to begin appearing in the road. It gets worse and worse all the time."

Despite the road signs stating 30kmh, people drove through at 70kmh or above all the time, he said.

"My main concern is that somebody is going to die on the road."

Fleur’s Place restaurant owner Fleur Sullivan said the road was never going to be perfect, but if it was regularly looked after it would be better.

"We all know it’s slipping but when it’s maintained it’s fine," Ms Sullivan said.

"As long as it’s signposted — give way, be careful — and people are respectful of the privilege of coming in to Moeraki and as they come round, seeing the bay and the boats ... that is the wow factor of Moeraki because it’s a very special village with that view."

 Some of the community members who worked for five months to rebuild a section of Haven St for...
Some of the community members who worked for five months to rebuild a section of Haven St for vehicle access. Standing (from left) are project manager Bruce Wheeler, Bill Pile, Ben Gold, Henry Matheson, James Matheson, Lance Hylandand Tony Hore with (sitting, from left) Robbie Mitchell, Laurence McGuire, Sue Tisdall with Lucy, and Craig Mitchell. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY.
Last week, the council’s maintenance team smoothed gravel on the worst hit sections of the street.

Roading manager Mike Harrison said more gravel was being prepared to address dust and "ravelling" of the street.

"The worst sections are always on the boundary of the slip zone; as such each end of the 400m becomes the roughest most often," Mr Harrison said.

Regular maintenance would continue to provide the best condition for resident access, and heavy vehicle restrictions would continue to reduce road damage to benefit those residents.

It was possible Haven St could be closed to through traffic again, and public safety would determine when the road would need to be restricted to certain traffic.

The council spent $85,000 maintaining Haven St from 2018 to 2020, and $10,000 had been spent on maintenance for the 2020-21 financial year.

In 2015, the road was sealed by the council and in 2016, the council acknowledged the road was sealed too early.

"The community-constructed road was sealed by council, but the land slip moved again within a few months. The seal continues to break up," Mr Harrison said.

"There are land movements occurring within a few days of storm events, sometimes more than others."

There were no future plans to seal the road again.

He disputed the public’s belief it was the sewerage lines causing the problems, and put it down to the "active land subsidence area".

"The active land instability is the cause of the problems for the area, and affects all the infrastructure above and below the ground level.

"The land instability is too great to be mitigated and the land will continue to move."

The council had been unable to find anything to stop the forces of nature.

kayla.hodge@odt.co.nz

Timeline

August 2013: Slip closes 400m of Haven St.
November 2013: Footpath built on closed road.
2014: Road closed, Waitaki District Council invests in detour.
December 2014: Community offers to help rebuild road.
February 2015: Volunteers start work.
July 12, 2015: Road officially opened, handed to council.
2015: Council seals section of the road rebuilt by community.
2018-20: Council spends $85,000 on maintaining road as slumps reappear.
February 2021: Council lays more gravel in worst sections of the road.

 

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