East Coast beach residents cut off by slip

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Residents of a remote East Coast beach community have been forced to purchase additional vehicles to reach town after part of their road slid down a cliff after a June storm.

Access to Waihau Bay, also known as Loisels, has been cut off since the weekend of 24 June following a local state of emergency a couple of days earlier.

About five metres of Waihau Road fell away in a landslide during the heavy rain event and the road has remained unrepaired, meaning 18 properties – a mixture of permanent residents and holiday homes – are cut off.

In order to make the 42-kilometre drive south to Gisborne, some residents have resorted to buying another vehicle which they park on the other side of the slip and access by way of a community-built footbridge.

Greg Shelton manages family farms Waihau Station and Raroa Station where access has been compromised because of the slip, and said he was worried.

“It won’t be long before we need to get docking crews in there, shearers in there and more importantly lambs and livestock out,” he said.

“I’m getting pretty anxious.”

Shelton is the area manager for Tolaga Bay Civil Defence, a voluntary position he has held for 35 years. He said he felt let down by the lack of communication from Gisborne District Council over what was happening with the area.

“I don’t know what their plans are. I’m trying to run a farm down there.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said they had had a connection with Waihau Bay for more than 50 years, during which time little work had been done on the road.

The slip was expected, they said, although residents were hoping for the best.

Now in their 70s, the person also raised concerns over what would happen in the event of a medical emergency, saying a helicopter would be the only way in.

“We are adapting. It is a pain in the bum. I would consider it very inconvenient living.

“We’re stuck in here – we’ve got nowhere else to live.”

In response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting, council community lifelines acting director Dave Hadfield said the council knew residents needed access.

The site of the slip had been inspected by council staff, geotechnical advisers and contractors who found that although conditions were improving, the existing road was highly susceptible to ongoing earth movement.

A temporary repair was planned for six weeks’ time, but he warned it could fail at the next heavy rain event.

“It’s really an opportunity to access their homes, clean out septic tanks and remove any vehicles,” Hadfield said.

Once it was complete, the temporary road would be limited to permanent residents of Waihau Bay and essential services.

Long-term options to reroute the road were being looked at and discussions were underway with landowners.

“This will take several months as we need to fully scope the project costs and then have the tricky discussion with residents as to how this will be funded.”

In the meantime, the council was offering temporary accommodation to those who needed it, and sending updates to Waihau residents by email.

Source: RNZ