Call for ac­tion on Manawatu Gorge

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Rural - JONO GALUSZKA

Busi­nesses through­out the lower North Is­land are push­ing for an ur­gent so­lu­tion to the trou­bled Manawatu Gorge route, say­ing road clo­sures have been a long­stand­ing prob­lem.

State High­way 3 through the gorge, link­ing Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, has been closed be­cause of slips since April.

It will not re­open for the fore­see­able fu­ture, with the NZ Trans­port Agency pulling staff out of the area be­cause of safety con­cerns.

The agency is work­ing on up­grad­ing the Sad­dle Rd al­ter­na­tive route, which by­passess Woodville and takes heavy trucks through Ash­hurst.

But busi­ness lead­ers want more ac­tion, faster, to get the prob­lem fixed.

Manawatu Cham­ber of Com­merce act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Amanda Lins­ley said the cham­ber asked the Gov­ern­ment in 2012, after an­other large slip came down in 2011 and closed the road for 14 months, to find a longterm so­lu­tion.

‘‘No-one wants a con­tin­u­a­tion of the sit­u­a­tion whereby ev­ery five years the gorge is shut by a ma­jor slip clos­ing the road for at least a month, with many mi­nor hic­cups through­out the year, dis­rupt­ing lo­cal busi­nesses and adding un­nec­es­sary costs.

‘‘Five years later, sadly, that prophecy has come true, with an even more dev­as­tat­ing out­come than was fore­seen.’’

Truck­ing firms across the lower North Is­land were be­ing hit

‘‘The gorge is the most ex­pe­di­ent, and some would ar­gue the safest, route avail­able.’’ Paul O'Brien

with in­creased labour and fuel costs, she said.

‘‘Com­pa­nies are acutely aware of not just the dam­age to their own busi­nesses, but to the Manawatu and the lower North Is­land’s gen­eral eco­nomic stand­ing.’’

Mean­while, no solid so­lu­tion had been put for­ward.

‘‘There needs to be ur­gent dis­cus­sion and a de­ci­sion made about the pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives and a plan put in place for the long term with­out fur­ther de­lay.’’

Manawatu busi­ness­man and for­mer di­rec­tor of the New Zealand Cham­ber of Com­merce Paul O’Brien said cham­bers across the lower North Is­land were lob­by­ing Trans­port Minister Si­mon Bridges for a so­lu­tion.

‘‘They all use Manawatu as a dis­tri­bu­tion hub, so it’s not about be­ing parochial.

‘‘The gorge is the most ex­pe­di­ent, and some would ar­gue the safest, route avail­able.’’

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/STUFF

Trans­port Minister Si­mon Bridges, pic­tured at the Manawatu Gorge, ac­cepts the road’s clo­sure needs a so­lu­tion sorted quickly.

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