Quake aftermath isolates farming districts

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014
Louise, Alice, Tess, and Andrew Poulton (and dog Pippi)

COUNTING THE COST: Louise, Alice, Tess, and Andrew Poulton (and dog Pippi) on the quake-damaged bridge at their Makuri farm.

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Farmers near the epicentre of Monday's quake are feeling the strain as dangerous roads restrict access to their homes and businesses.

People living and farming in districts east of Eketahuna - such as Pongaroa, Makuri and Tiraumea - say little attention is being paid to their plight.

"It's no different from [the quake aftermath in] Christchurch, except when it's on your farm that's your place of business as well - when your house is damaged, you can't just move out, you've got to be on site," said Louise Poulton, who lives and farms with husband Andrew and daughters Alice, 11, and Tessa, 13, at Makuri. The rural area has a one-teacher primary school, a golf club and a domain, east of Pahiatua.

Poulton said neighbours were feeling the strain, with buildings knocked off piles or wrenched so that no door or window closed.

At least one home was uninhabitable and farmers were unable to wean lambs because they could not get them to the freezing works over roads either badly buckled or threatened by teetering boulders.

The Poultons' farm is reached over a private bridge across the Makuri River, and large cracks in the concrete structure could result in its closure, cutting them off.

And a cluster of boulders perched above the Makuri Gorge road has closed it to all but the most intrepid locals, with stock trucks having to make huge detours or not come at all.

Tararua District Council engineering manager Ray Cannon saidthe rocks were up to a metre across and weighing half a tonne.

Workers would look to abseil down on Monday to remove them using explosives or levers, he said. Meanwhile, it was hoped one lane could be opened.

Other roads into Makuri are also damaged and intermittently closed, and everyone is affected.

Trail-bikers from around the lower North Island will head for the district on February 2 for Makuri School's main annual fundraiser. But whether they will be able to get past the gorge is unclear.

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said the council was doing everything it could to restore access to Makuri and elsewhere.

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- The Dominion Post

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