Loss of paper road hotly opposed

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:38 31/01/2013

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A planned route  to the Ruahine Forest Park looks set to be debated in the Environment Court as trampers and hunters object to the closing of  a paper road.

The proposed closure of the paper road in the Pohangina Valley has left some residents upset.

The move to stop the unformed portion of Opawe Rd and to create a new road to facilitate access to the park was approved by the Manawatu District Council in March 2011.

The public notice was issued in November last year and public submissions close today.

The paper road, located on a property owned by Maungatau Farm, leads to the west-to-east crossing of Ruahine Forest Park - a seven-hour trek to Dannevirke via the Maharahara Peak track.

Trampers would still have access to the park through a walkway signposted by the Department of Conservation.

The district council wants to make that route the official public one through a land swap. But some residents say the paper road should be kept open and accessible.

Rongotea man Neville Parrott said he planned to take the issue directly to the Environment Court because he felt it was ''absolutely wrong, what they're proposing to do''.

''The swap of these two pieces of land is totally inadequate.

''I'm prepared to spend a hell of a lot of money down in the Environment Court, because they're not going to rubberstamp this.''

Ashhurst resident Johannes Altenburg said the landowner had been ''obstructive'' over use of the road.

''He doesn't own the paper road, you and I own that and we've got every right to access that day or night ... the whole thing is ludicrous.

"Our right to free passage on this has been kicked to bloody hell; it should never have come to this stage.

"I would like to see the road retained as the status quo ... and the farmer to be made to fence the road off from his farm, so the public are in no doubt where it goes and are free to use it.''

Maungatau Farm owner Richard Christensen said he did not start the process.

''I'm just trying to work through with the council to make it happier for everybody.''

His property, stock and house, which sits adjacent to the paper road, had been shot at by people using the paper road, he said.

Trampers or hunters using the walkway would often get lost and wander on to his private property, he said.

Although he had problems with people using the pathway, it had been nothing serious.

''There seems to be a lot of confusion and no-one is clear of anything.

"The poled route has been there more than 50 years ... and they're using our land there now, the poled route is our land, so all they're doing is transferring it from this spot [the public road], on to that spot.

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''All they're [Manawatu District Council] trying to do is legalise where they walk now and, as a compromise, I give them that piece of land [the poled, signposted route] and I get this piece [the paper road].''

Mr Christensen said he had not been aware of a paper road on his property when he bought it seven years ago, so the ''problems'' with it came as a ''surprise''.

In the notice, the council said the road was ''no longer required due to ground instability''.

The council's support services and environment group manager, Shayne Harris, said a surveyor provided a report and council staff had walked the paper road and the alternative route.

If there were objections and the council insisted the paper road should close, the case would go to the Environment Court.

- Manawatu Standard

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