Dispute continues over restoring public route to forest park

Last updated 12:44 04/02/2013

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The Manawatu District Council has been through this before, but paper-road disputes have not always been about closures and land swaps.

Nearly 10 years ago, the council attempted to restore a popular public route to the Ruahine Forest Park, after it reached a stalemate with a Pohangina landowner.

The council tried to engage the Umutoi North Road landowner Kim Lockwood to legalise 180 metres of disputed road in the vicinity of Coal Creek in 2004, because it was a more direct route to the park for people coming from Palmerston North.

Mr Lockwood, and previous property owners, had discouraged the public from using the last kilometre of the road, because they said that people tended to park in unsuitable places or damage property.

At the time, the council said it had no intention of restoring the road after it was damaged by a slump in storms that occurred that year.

Signs were erected saying the road was closed to car traffic, but trampers and hunters could still legally trek to the ranges from the Umutoi North Road. Mr Lockwood tried many times to have public access stopped, but the council said that in case future generations wanted to restore the damaged road, it should be kept open.

The council also received a petition signed by 211 people requesting that it open Umutoi North Road to provide better access to Ruahine Forest Park.

The council's support services and environment group manager, Shayne Harris, declined to comment about what had since happened with the road.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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