Concern about the condition of Route 52 between Weber and Herbertville boiled over with a message left on the road recently.
Someone had written “Fix this bloody road” on the highway.
Roading organisation the Tararua Alliance says there is help coming, but it needs to develop a major project expected to cost $10 million to fix the route permanently.
“Route 52, formerly State Highway 52, was placed back under Council management in the 1980s.
The Route runs the entire length of Tararua District between Central Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa. It is a vital link for our rural and coastal communities. Route 52 is also an important freight link, particularly for forestry travelling to Napier Port.
The section of Route 52 between Weber and the northern boundary with Central Hawke’s Bay, via Wimbledon, is in poor shape, and has been for some time.
The road lacks the pavement strength and width to safely handle the large heavy vehicles now using it.
The formation and geology of the surrounding land also make the road susceptible to damage, such as subsidence, slips and dropouts, during bad weather.
The long, winding and narrow road is quickly deteriorating as a result and motorists, especially locals, are becoming increasingly frustrated.
Tararua District Council and the Tararua Alliance, Council’s transport and reticulation infrastructure alliance with Downer, are well aware of the issues.
Significant improvements to the route between Weber and Central Hawke’s Bay were proposed in Council’s latest Long Term Plan for 2018-2028, consulted on and adopted earlier this year.
“We are definitely aware of the state of Route 52 and acknowledge the ongoing frustration of road users, we’re planning to do something about it,” Tararua Alliance Manager Chris Chapman says.
The Tararua Alliance team and consultant partners have been developing the business case for the project.
The case is required by the NZ Transport Agency to justify the proposed central government subsidy – at least $6.6 million of the total $10 million budget
proposed for the project.
The Tararua Alliance has also analysed, surveyed and investigated the road, for both the business case and development of a master design list.
The list details all potential improvements which could be made, including road widening, pavement strengthening, drainage improvements, replacement of retaining walls, realignment of curves, installation of guardrails, improved signage and sight distance and strengthening of bridges.
The primary drivers of the project are to improve the safety, accessibility and resilience of the road.
The upgrades are also expected to improve aesthetic aspects of the road, such as travel comfort and attractiveness, encouraging further tourism traffic using Route 52 which adds to the local economy.
“Safe and reliable journeys are important, as is affordability, Mr Chapman said.
“We need to ensure future investment in the road provides long-term solutions, treating the causes of the issues rather than just the symptoms”.
“Provided NZ Transport Agency approves funding, the project is planned to begin in 2019 and be completed by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
“While this may not be soon enough for some, including those who’ve recently painted on the road, it will be a blessing for others who have tolerated bumpy rides for the past few decades.”
We need to ensure future investment in the road provides long-term solutions, treating the causes of the issues rather than just the symptoms.’
CHRIS CHAPMAN Tararua Alliance Manager
Drone footage of the message reflecting local frustration about the state of the Weber to Wimbledon section of Route 52.