4 Nov 2022

Marlborough Sounds storm-damaged roads may be permanently closed, council says

7:24 pm on 4 November 2022
A huge slip on the Kenepuru Road, visible behind Chrissy Sumby's Waima Bay property.

A huge slip on the Kenepuru Road, visible behind Chrissy Sumby's Waima Bay property. File photo Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Marlborough District Council says it is possible parts of Kenepuru Road in the Marlborough Sounds could be permanently closed after it was severely damaged in the August storm.

The Kenepuru Road was the worst affected during severe weather in August, causing further damage on top of last July's storm, and locals have taken their concerns to council staff at public meetings this week.

The council says while many residents want certainty, it's not in a position to give it and it will be at least another six months before the final repair options are finalised.

At the very end of Kenepuru Road, Hopewell Lodge co-owner Lynley Perkins said her workload has increased since the road closed and guests could no longer drive in.

Hopewell Lodge owners Lynley Perkins Clegg and Michael Clegg.

Hopewell Lodge owners Lynley Perkins Clegg and Michael Clegg. File photo Photo: Rich J Jones Photography

The postman collected and dropped off her linen, and she spent more time working to keep bookings and organise boat transport for guests.

"The water taxi subsidies are definitely a saviour for our business, it makes it very affordable to come in from Havelock, our only concern would be how long will they last? And will they stay in place until the road is actually open again to public?"

Chrissy Sumby lives near Te Mahia Bay in Kenepuru Sound and since the road recently reopened for residents, she's been able to travel to Havelock several times a week for work.

"Most of us like to drive, we need to drive as we don't have boat access. What they're doing at the moment is good, they are getting rid of the the dirt that's in the way so you don't feel like you're squashing through it or you might slide off [the road]."

Waima Bay resident Chrissy Sumby. (Waima Bay is unnamed on the map but to the west of Te Mahia Bay)

Waima Bay resident Chrissy Sumby. File photo Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Kenepuru Road resident Stefan Schulz attended two of the community meetings in Waitaria Bay and Portage and said residents were united in pushing for better access.

The current restriction for a section of the road was a combined vehicle and trailer length of no more than eight metres but a ute and small trailer was longer than that, Schulz said, forcing people to break the rules.

"The biggest hurt for the farming community is the complete lack of the possibility of bringing trucks in on the road and from what we hear that might be a reasonably long term situation."

Recovery manager Dean Heiford said all possible options were being considered for Kenepuru Road.

"There's everything from parts of the road being closed to all singing, all dancing, double lane road and everything in between. But we don't know what the solution is yet and that's why we need to go out to the community, ask them what their needs are, but also understand the costings and the issues of putting back in something that's affordable, resilient, and that we can maintain properly in the future."

Dean Heiford, Marlborough Civil Defence Controller.

Recovery manager Dean Heiford. File photo Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

It's been estimated the Kenepuru Road repairs could cost $160m.

More than $5m has been allocated to improving access along the road in the short term.

"Giving people safe reliable access in the interim is our priority and then going out to the communities and asking them what impacts different forms of roading access will have on their lives and businesses before we can go back to the government to seek as much funding as we can get for Marlborough to help us out because any funding we don't get from Waka Kotahi and the government has to be met by local ratepayers," Heiford said.

Engineering consultants are investigating the roading network, with a full report and options for road repairs expected by mid next year.

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