4 Feb 2018

Te Urewera roading trial taking natural route

6:30 pm on 4 February 2018

A roading trial taking place in Te Urewera will test the properties of a specially developed natural roading material.

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There are many winding, gravel roads in Te Urewera which are prone to washouts, slips and closures. Photo: 123RF

Te Uru Taumata, Ngāi Tuhoe's post-Treaty settlement body, will trial a tall pitch oil resin to bind gravel roads.

The oil has been developed for more than two years and around $300,000 has been invested in the project to develop an alternative product to bitumen.

Opus Research in Wellington has been involved in helping to trial the resin which is an extract from pine trees.

The New Zealand Transport Agency and both the Whakatāne District Council and Wairoa District Council are also working on the project.

A majority of the roading in Te Urewera is windy, not tar-sealed and prone to slips, washouts and closures.

The resin is being tested at two separate test road sites near Ruatahuna and Waikaremoana over the next two years.

Te Uru Taumatua chairman Tamati Kruger said the resin was world leading and had been trialled on roads used by logging trucks in Canada.

"Our belief is that it will be able to hold the gravel and we'll tweak it over the time and monitor it, so it will take care of potholes and the corrugations as well suppressing the dust."

There are hopes the new product would be able to fine tuned and developed into a product that could be used around the world, Mr Kruger said.

Climate change and conservation were also driving the decision to use sustainable roading materials.

"We have spent a lot of effort and time really considering issues the world is concerned about, like our connection with nature and the earth," Mr Kruger said.

"For Tūhoe it is about there sense of belonging and connection with Te Urewera."