The ordinary meeting of Stratford District Council (SDC) was held in Whangamomona last week, with councillors first being taken on a tour of the emergency works completed following the June 2015 storm in the area.
A minute's silence was held at the start of the council meeting at the Whangamomona Hall in memory of Ayla Mary Bishop, who passed away last week. Ayla was the daughter of council employee Erin Bishop and her husband Daniel. In Ayla's short life she had won the hearts of all who met her and was a frequent and popular visitor to her mum's workplace.
The meeting was preceded by a public forum, in which members of the public were able to raise any concerns they may have.
Roading was a hot topic, with Richard Pratt speaking passionately about the state of State Highway 43 in the Tangarakau Gorge area and representatives of the Whangamomona Road Action Group appealing for help.
Richard said he has serious concerns about the condition of parts of the State Highway.
I have tourists who stop in Whangamomona having had multiple punctures. The road through Tangarakau Gorge was remetalled recently and I have questions about the material used and how it was applied.
Richard said he believes the bad state of the road "reflects directly on Stratford District Council and will impact tourist numbers".
Mayor Neil Volzke clarified the highway comes under the control of the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) but he and councillors supported Richard's concerns and any efforts to improve the situation. Neil said it was important people were aware they could call NZTA to complain if they were unhappy and Richard said he gave the number out to customers in the Whangamomona Hotel frequently.
With work still due to be undertaken on SH43 after the June 2015 storm event, Neil said he found it "ironic" that local councils were being penalised by reduction of funding subsidies if work required on council-owned roads was not completed within a 12-month period.
Yet urgent and significant repairs on the NZTA-owned SH43 have not even started. These delays give rise to real safety concerns and the work needs to get underway before we have an incident of some sort.
Deputy mayor, Alan Jamieson, said the highway is "a major artery to our district," and SDC should therefore "lend a voice" to the call for work to be done on it.
Noel Pickford and Tim Payne, of the Whangamomona Road Action Group spoke to councillors about the state of the Whangamomona Road.
This used to be a Council maintained road until some decades ago it was decided it was no longer needed.
Ever since, the Whangamomona Road Action Group has taken over the maintenance.
"The road is in need of a makeover, and we simply don't have the money," said Tim, saying the road becomes dangerous at times in winter.
"There is a lot of damage caused by four-wheel drives on the track, and people get stuck at times, needing help to be pulled out." The road, which leads to the Whanganui River, has great appeal to tourists says Noel.
The tourism it could attract if well maintained would be phenomenal.
Councillors directed council staff to bring an options report to a future council meeting on the legalities and options. Neil Volzke says the council will look at ways in which it could assist and facilitate improvement of the road.
NZTA Complaints: 0800 444 449. For more information about the Whangamomona Road Action Group, visit their website: www.wrag.yolasite.com