Dannevirke residents hit with more bills and less business

The Saddle Rd, an alternative route to the Manawatu Gorge, needs fixing from dozens of pot holes created by increased ...
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

The Saddle Rd, an alternative route to the Manawatu Gorge, needs fixing from dozens of pot holes created by increased traffic.

Dwindling business and higher bills are hitting Dannevirke residents hard as the Manawatu Gorge remains closed. 

State Highway 3 through the gorge was closed after a large slip covered both lanes on April 24. More than two months later, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) announced it was closed indefinitely because of more unstable material. 

This has hit Woodville hard as people bypass the town centre, but Dannevirke Vault Cafe owner Doug Kennerley said it was also decreasing his business by 30 per cent.

The Saddle Rd undergoes upgrades at the beginning of 2017 before it was damaged by increased traffic.
SUPPLIED

The Saddle Rd undergoes upgrades at the beginning of 2017 before it was damaged by increased traffic.

Although people were still driving through Dannevirke, they weren't stopping any more as they tried to make up for lost time, Kennerley said. 

READ MORE:
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The cafe was also a meeting point for people from Hawke's Bay and Manawatu, but Kennerley said he had seen less of that since the closure. 

A couple of staff members had left, partly because their hours were cut, but Kennerley was not going to replace them.

Instead, he was picking up  hours, with his wife Jan. 

Peter Anderson, from Dannevirke Sportsworld, said courier costs had increased by up to 25 per cent and business had been slightly down as well. 

Longer travel time through Saddle Rd and "doozy" potholes weren't helping the situation, he said. 

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Dannevirke resident Sharon Senior copped a $250 bill after hitting a pothole on Saddle Rd. 

On one of her near-daily trips to Palmerston North, Senior noticed a huge pothole that she couldn't swerve to avoid as a wide truck was passing by.

Senior said the road was dangerous and she usually only got up to 70kmh on the 100kmh stretch. 

"You really have to have your wits about you."

About three weeks into the gorge closure Senior noticed the Saddle Rd becoming increasingly damaged. 

What used to be a scenic route was now an unpleasant drive, she said. 

Petrol was also costing about $20 more per week, which would soon add up if the gorge continued to be closed for the year, Senior said. 

Quality Tyres foreman Wayne Belk said the amount of tyres needing fixing was increasing. 

Belk had at least one customer a week who had damaged tyres from driving the Saddle Rd.

But it was an issue that had simply shifted as Belk used to get customers with punctured tyres from rock fall in the Manawatu Gorge, he said. 

Dannevirke resident Marie Feck​ said the drive through the Saddle Rd in the dark after a 10-hour shift at Palmerston North Hospital could be "creepy", but there was no viable alternative as the Pahiatua Track took even longer. 

A temporary solution could be restricting truck drivers to the Pahiatua Track to minimise damage on the Saddle Rd, Feck said. 

Restricting vehicle use on the Saddle Rd would also make it safer, she said. 

"You get on a passing lane and sometimes the trucks are passing trucks.

"You can't get anywhere." 

NZTA regional transport system manager Ross I'Anson​ said the agency took over maintenance of the Saddle Rd in the past week.  

Heavy maintenance work started on Saturday to fix potholes and surfacing defects. 

While the speed limit was usually 100kmh, there were some areas where a 50kmh speed limit has been implemented because of the deteriorating road surface.

"[NZTA] will monitor the road and speeds during the period of the Manawatu Gorge closure and adjustment of the speed limit, due to driver behaviour or road conditions, may be considered."

 - Stuff

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