Massey University’s gorge woes
An alternative route to the shut Manawatu¯ Gorge road, backed by six councils, could affect Massey University.
The university’s Manawatu¯ campus could lose land, used by more than 400 students and staff each year, if the NZ Transport Agency opts to build a new highway south of the gorge.
Information obtained through the Official Information Act shows Massey would seek compensation if the most southern option for a replacement route to State Highway 3 is chosen.
The highway, the main link between Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu¯ , is closed indefinitely as unstable rock made it unsafe for public use.
The four shortlisted options are an upgrade to the Saddle Rd, a new road north of the Saddle Rd, a new road south of it, and a new road south of the Manawatu¯ Gorge.
Mayors from the Manawatu¯ District Council, Tararua District Council, Whanganui District Council, Rangitıkei District Council, Horizons Regional Council and Palmerston North City Council support the construction of a new road south of the gorge. They say it would offer the chance to build a second bridge over the Manawatu¯ River and help the proposed regional ring road.
Massey spokesman James Gardiner said the proposed route would dissect about 100ha of flat land from about 365ha of hill country.
‘‘It is our only really suitable sheep and beef hill-country research farm of its type,’’ Gardiner said.
The land was used for teaching about 400 veterinarian and agriculture students yearly, and postgraduate students and staff used it for research purposes, Gardiner said.
‘‘Unless multiple underpasses were provided to connect the two parts of the farm, the hill-country part would be cut off and rendered uneconomic because all the buildings and support services are on the flat land.’’
The level of compensation sought had not been considered yet, and the university did not have a preference for any other route, Gardiner said.
A major research farm north of the gorge would be affected by two, maybe three options around the Saddle Rd.
Fertiliser Association chief executive Vera Power said Ballantrae Research Farm, near the Saddle Rd, was an important asset for pastoral agriculture and it had national significance.
‘‘The fertiliser trial at Ballantrae hill country sheep and beef research station has been in place for over 40 years.’’
It was the only hill-country trial of its kind remaining in New Zealand, Power said.