By Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter
Some flood-damaged Marlborough Sounds roads might never be "put back", a roading boss has conceded, as an engineering company is brought in to look at the long-term "levels of service" to isolated communities.
Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin told Ōkiwi Bay residents at a flood recovery meeting last week that the Marlborough District Council had been told by Waka Kotahi it needed to "create a network back in the Sounds that is sustainable" if it wanted more funding.
"Before we can do repairs, we need to undertake the study to see what level of service and how we are going to put these roads back, if in fact we are going to put the roads back," Murrin said.
"There's probably going to be some places in the Sounds that we might not be able to put the road back."
Meanwhile, the council last week approved getting engineering consultants Stantec NZ to investigate Marlborough's roading network.
Council chief executive Mark Wheeler said the Stantec work was all about the long-term future and "how far we go".
Wheeler said any changes to the level of service in the Sounds would have to go out for public consultation, and nothing was "predetermined".
"It will look at the economic and community effects on different levels of service. Do we go further? Make it even more resilient? That's the sort of thing they will be addressing," Wheeler said.
"Once all of that comes forward ... we look at alternative access proposals if we do have any.
"It's really significant for those communities, if there are changes to levels of service, so they need to have a say."
Nearly 4000 faults had been identified in Marlborough's roading network as a result of four days of heavy rain in August. That number was still growing, and was more than double that of the damage caused following heavy rain in July 2021.
Waka Kotahi agreed in 2021 to give the council more than $80 million to help fix the region's roads. Following the August deluge, in 2022, the council asked to use some of the money it had left over to help repair the more recent damage, which it considered a "priority".
The upcoming Stantec study was a condition of reallocating the Waka Kotahi funding. It would look at the cost of repairs, climate change, land stability, safety, alternatives to road if necessary, community and economic impacts of access changes and housing land stability risks.
In a separate report presented to full council, Wheeler also warned Marlborough could face further storms, and repair costs, due to climate change. This would require significant rates increases.
Back at the Ōkiwi Bay meeting, where Murrin was fronting up along with recovery manager Dean Heiford, residents were given the chance to voice their concerns. Two similar meetings were held on Thursday in the Kenepuru Sound, which Murrin said had "copped the worst" of the damage.
Permanent Ōkiwi Bay resident Robbie Peat said the community needed assurance.
"It's not 'oh yeah, we've ticked a box', and you've gone and listened to the whinging people out at Ōkiwi Bay," Peat said.
"What we want from you guys is a commitment to this community that we are going to see positive stuff come out of this meeting. I know that there are people in this bay who will be more than happy to try and make stuff happen as efficiently as we can."
Speaking after the meeting, Peat said he hoped the council followed up on their concerns.
"I realise there are massive issues right throughout the region ... but unfortunately there's been more emphasis throughout the region on the environment and nature, than there has on people and the impacts on people and mental health and everything else," he said.
"Quite frankly, it's crap."
He admitted the council was working with "one hand tied behind their back".
"We all know there are practical solutions to fix [the roads] a lot quicker than what they are, but they can't because of the RMA (Resource Management Act) and all that sort of stuff that's passed down from central government.
"These guys are between a rock and a hard place, I don't envy them."
Ōkiwi Bay Residents Association chairperson Tim Greenhough said after the meeting they just wanted to see some action now the council had heard their concerns.
"[But] They have a heap of miles to do first, we're only one community," Greenhough said.
Heiford said if it weren't for locals, access in and out of the remote areas of the Sounds would have taken far longer than it had following both this and last year's floods.
"Driving the road, and seeing what you people deal with normally, let alone with the layer of damage and other issues on the road, it gives us a really good appreciation and empathy for what you are facing."
Torea Rd, $200,000
Fish Bay barge ramp, $400,000
Pudneys barge ramp, $200,000
Waitaria Jetty, $50,000
Waihopai realignment, $567,000
Limestone Slip revetment, $1m
Māori Ford bridge, $4.5m
Noels Bridge - Northbank, $3.5m
Castle Creek bridge - scour repairs, $75,000
Black Birch bridge - scour repairs, $75,000
Cullens Point - land procurement, $20,000
Sounds long term planning study - $500,000
French Pass, $700,000
Kenepuru Sound, $1.2m
Picton/Port Underwood, $400,000
Queen Charlotte Dr, $6.3m
Awatere Valley Rd, $480,000
Improved Access Repairs
French Pass, $270,000
Kenepuru Sound, $5.2m
Queen Charlotte Dr, $321,300
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air