NZ First deputy slams Manawatu Gorge closure

By Dave Murdoch

New Zealand First Deputy Leader Ron Mark talks with Nigel James of Woodville Transport in the Wind Farm Café about increasing operating costs.
New Zealand First Deputy Leader Ron Mark talks with Nigel James of Woodville Transport in the Wind Farm Café about increasing operating costs.

Long-time resident of the Tararua in his youth, ex-mayor of Carterton and now Deputy Leader of New Zealand First Ron Mark says the Manawatu Gorge has always been an issue.

"It beggars belief that this many years on authorities are still debating about it."
He was talking in Woodville on Tuesday July 11, having just crossed the Saddle Road, which he described as "appalling".

One of many heavy trucks spraying loose gravel out of potholes on the Saddle Road.
One of many heavy trucks spraying loose gravel out of potholes on the Saddle Road.

He was visiting to catch up with Woodville businesses to see how they were coping with the news of the indefinite closure of the gorge, announced by NZ Transport Agency on Friday.

His party leader Winston Peters was also calling for heads to roll in a press release, entitled "National's Manawatu Gorge betrayal," on Friday July 7.

"New Zealand First is aghast that the Manawatu Gorge has been closed "indefinitely" by National and is calling on the government to come up with a support package for affected towns.

"Nothing sums up the ineptitude of National more than the Manawatu Gorge being closed, which has severed SH3 and cut vital links in the lower North Island," he says.

"If this was the Auckland Harbour Bridge the government would be all over it like a rash. But because this is in provincial New Zealand it is treated like an also-ran.

"We've got news for Messrs English, Joyce and Bridges. The regions will no longer put up with being treated as second-class citizens.

"Whoever has been project managing this needs to be fired because if what Mr Bridges says is true about serious geotechnical issues, then how come it wasn't picked up two months ago, or when other slips struck in 2015, 2012, 2011 and earlier?

Traffic on the corner of Woodlands and Oxford Roads illustrates the problem for Woodville and the upkeep of rural roads.

"What is for certain is that the Manawatu Gorge closure is like an earthquake upon businesses and their staff. Those near the Gorge and in Woodville have hung on but now deserve help from this government because this decision is a disaster for them."

"New Zealand First takes this seriously and our local MPs, Ron Mark and Darroch Ball will write to the Prime Minister for solutions.

"We also know how vital SH3 is and we expect to make a more detailed policy announcement quite soon," says Mr Peters.

Ron echoed the sentiment that had this issue been in Auckland it would have received greater attention.

He had just seen the newly opened Waterview Tunnel in Auckland with its "ostentation".
"If even a tenth of the spending there had been diverted to solving the gorge problem there would not be one."

He is calling for a package of actions by government similar to that rolled out for Kaikoura, with legislation to allow contractors to bypass some environmental restrictions in the interest of urgency and a package of support to help businesses.

Meanwhile, he is greatly concerned at the deterioration of the Saddle Road, particularly the breakup of seal not long installed and urged NZTA to move on this route with speed.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 29 Jul 2017 03:19:03 Processing Time: 606ms