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Trucks trashing the Motu

A WINTER ban on logging trucks using back country roads is under consideration because of the amount of damage trucks are legally doing to the Motu Road, one of John Key’s top tourism projects.

Speaking at a meeting of Gisborne District Council’s infrastructure services committee, councillors lined up to express discontent that a $40,000 repair job on the Motu Road had been made pointless inside just two weeks by heavy log truck use.

Councillor Roger Haisman said the issue was costing ratepayers money and also affecting the Motu Trails, which was one of the New Zealand Cycle Trails’ Great Rides.

“It’s in a shocking state, all the way from Motu Bridge right to the top of the hill. It has been absolutely wrecked by logging trucks, which are carting logs from forests in the eastern Bay of Plenty area.

“They are taking their logs out on a heritage road, on Mr Key’s cycleway that’s not now suitable for cyclists. It’s an absolute disgrace what they’ve done to that road.

“It was made for horses and carts and it has been perfectly conditioned for the odd Sunday driver or pig hunter, and cyclists.

“It was a very good surface for cycling and now it is no longer suitable. The Labour Government about 10 years ago paid $30 million for East Coast roads to enable forestry to operate 365 days of the year.

“We couldn’t close those roads because we spent that money on them, but the Motu Road was never in that agreement and never had that money spent on it.

Getting 'shafted'“It’s not our problem, it’s Opotiki’s problem and we are, quite frankly, getting shafted. The cycle season is about to get under way, and we will have all these people wanting to bike from Opotiki through the Motu. We’re trying to encourage them to come to Gisborne and then they suddenly find they can’t come through.

“When Mr Key finds that out, he’s not going to be very happy and we’re going to look like absolute plonkers.”

Committee chairman Graeme Thomson confirmed the council had closed the road for a week in June to repair the damage done by trucks. But a visit to the area two weeks later revealed the road had been “absolutely trashed again”.

Paying another $40,000 was pointless and some way to close the road was needed. Mr Thomson said there was a bigger issue of heavy use causing damage to unsuitable roads.

“We have to come up with a solution, otherwise we will be sitting around the table while the issue gets worse, wondering how we are going to pay for these roads.”

Councillor Rehette Stoltz said the road was in such a bad condition for cycling that the organisers of last weekend’s Motu Special mountain bike race had needed to alter their planned course route.

“A lot of cyclists say the road is not safe for cyclists.”

Tairawhiti Roads journey manager Helen Harris said the Motu Road was a “complex situation”, with logging there to continue for another four years.

“There are actually 10 stakeholders involved in this, and that includes people like the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment because they fund the Motu Trails Great Trails Great Ride, the Department of Conservation and Opotiki District Council.”

Road in a stateAll were in agreement that the road was in a state it should not be in.

“Opotiki District Council has advised that yes, the resource consent does sit on the other side. However, we did agree to this resource consent and we were aware they would be coming out on our roads. I am also aware that the logging company has a contract with Eastland Port.”

She pointed out the logging company was acting within its resource consent.

“I am advised by the consent holder that they had no issues last year. The consent holder has been quite compliant and wants to work with us. He believes there has been a lack of maintenance on the road.”

Ms Harris said she was now investigating the possibility of invoking an existing bylaw that could put a halt to truck and trailer units on unsuitable roads in winter.

Bringing the road up to a suitable standard for heavy vehicle usage would cost more than $300,000.

Ms Harris said Opotiki District Council had advised it would not be safe for trucks to travel the road to Opotiki. Mr Haisman said that was “absolute rubbish.”

Pat Seymour said she had put forward a council paper on winter use of logging trucks and trailers on unsuitable roads in 2013, and it was time the issue was looked at again.

Mr Thomson said the message was “loud and clear”. It was “imperative” a solution be found as soon as possible.

Motu Trails, "the world’s most beautiful playground". Picture supplied