Dusty road sealing 'a good start'

By Mike Dinsdale

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Logging trucks kicking up a dust storm have prompted residents on Wright and McCardle roads to lobby Whangarei District Council to seal the road - which should now start happening.
Logging trucks kicking up a dust storm have prompted residents on Wright and McCardle roads to lobby Whangarei District Council to seal the road - which should now start happening.

Residents on dusty rural roads who have been fighting against clouds of dust kicked up by logging trucks are celebrating new that Whangarei District Council and NZ Transport Agency will seal parts of the roads outside their homes.

But residents of Wright and McCardle roads, north west of Whangarei, say while the move is a 'good start' after their 12 year battle, the won't rest until their entire roads are sealed.

Residents of Wright and McCardle roads have been battling against the dust problem that has become a health issue for well over a decade, with clouds of dust descending on homes as logging trucks go by.

Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai yesterday said she was thrilled to announce major progress will be made on dust issues on the roads this year.

"The NZTA has approved funding to seal another 2.52km of the Wright/McCardle logging route. The estimated cost of this work is $1.3 million - $50,000 in 2016/17 for investigations and fees and $1,250,000 in 2017/18 for physical works," Ms Mai said.

She said that the road will be sealed where it passes occupied houses, not its entire length, provided the council agrees to fund the local share when it meets next Thursday, "and I am sure it will".

Pipiwai Titoki Road Action Group spokeswoman Alex Wright said it was great news after the residents had spent more than 12 years fighting the issue.

'"We've put a lot of time and effort into getting this far, but this is only the start really and we'll keep lobbying to get the whole of every road sealed," Ms Wright said.

She said it was a relief to finally be taken seriously by NZTA over the major public health issue the dust caused the residents.

Another Wright Rd resident, Daryl Barge said the announcement was great news, but was not the end of the matter as far as he and other residents were concerned.

"They've already sealed parts of the road in front of many houses, but that wasn't enough as the drag from the dust is about 500 metres when it comes off the metal," Mr Barge said.

"So that's proved pretty ineffective, so I'm picking they are going to add to those existing strips to make them longer, which will help. But over time we'd like the whole road sealed.

"That's our ultimate goal, and this is definitely a step in the right direction, but it's been a long time coming. This is a public safety issue."

Ms Mai said WDC's application had to reach a very high bar. Wright Rd is unique because it has a very high volume of logging traffic which will continue long into the future.

"We celebrate this outcome. We are the first council to apply for funding using the agency's new dust hazard criteria, we have been successful, and we intend to apply for more funding for the rest of the road, and potentially other roads in the district," she said.

"Physical work on the road should happen next summer."

NZTA said the council looked at various options and has determined that chip sealing was the best practical option to reduce potential adverse health effects of dust exposure at these locations.

"The Transport Agency understands the concerns caused by dust for residents along Northland's very large rural and unsealed road network", NZTA's Northland Regional Director, Ernst Zöllner said.

"We're delighted to be able to support Whangarei District Council to actively manage dust issues through their maintenance programmes."

- Northern Advocate

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