Gorge 'vulnerable', not dangerous

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 21/06/2012

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A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says his description in Parliament of the Manawatu Gorge road as "dangerous" was an error.

During question time yesterday, Mr Brownlee fielded three questions on State Highway 3, the Saddle Rd and the Manawatu Gorge.

While answering the third, from Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway, he said in relation to SH3 "it is only prudent to make sure there are alternative routes.

"It is a dangerous and vulnerable road".

Mr Brownlee's press secretary said last night Mr Brownlee did not think the road was dangerous and he had used the wrong word. He had meant to say the road was "vulnerable".

Mr Brownlee's spokesman said that when he watched Mr Brownlee answer the question it was clear he was searching for the word he wanted to use and had used the wrong one.

"It's hard when you're talking off the cuff," the spokesman said.

"I could see his mind churning, looking for `vulnerable'."

But Mr Lees-Galloway was not buying that.

"Whether he meant it or not it was the first word that came to mind. I think it's what he believes, because they are the words that came out of his mouth."

Mr Lees-Galloway said he agreed with what Mr Brownlee said originally, and because the road is "vulnerable" to slips, it must also be dangerous.

"I think he's right; I think it is a dangerous and vulnerable road and it's simply not good enough that he is happy for the Manawatu to rely on a dangerous and vulnerable road to be our primary link to the port of Napier while he's building gold-plated roads of national significance [elsewhere]."

"Slips occur often," Mr Lees-Galloway said. "We've been lucky they haven't occurred when there's traffic on the road."

Since the gorge route was closed by the first of a series of slips in August, Mr Lees-Galloway has called for an investigation into the cost of building a new route east of Manawatu or upgrading an existing road to be more reliable.

Mr Brownlee has maintained throughout that the gorge should be the primary route through the area with the Saddle Road and Pahiatua Track as alternatives when the gorge is closed.

Mr Brownlee had answered two questions in Parliament yesterday from Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie about progress to reopen the gorge before the question from Mr Lees-Galloway.

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- Manawatu Standard

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