Mayor battles civil defence over Waiau road closure

Hurunui District mayor, Winton Dalley, is frustrated the Inland Road north of Waiau has been closed to all traffic, ...
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Hurunui District mayor, Winton Dalley, is frustrated the Inland Road north of Waiau has been closed to all traffic, cutting local residents off to essential supplies.

Tensions have erupted over the closure of the Inland Road north of Waiau following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

The damaged stretch of road from Waiau to Kaikoura has been closed to all traffic, including local residents, by New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) and Civil Defence Canterbury.

Earthquake minister Gerry Brownlee is signalling an overhaul of disaster recovery and civil defence structures in the wake of the Kaikoura quakes after admitting they had exposed "a number of failings in the system that we can't allow to continue".

Hurunui District Mayor Winton Dalley said about 20 farms and another 30 households in Mt Lyford had been cut off from essential supplies of water and assistance as a result. 

"We have had residents locked out of being able to return to their homes, we've had emergency services and utility services including our engineers denied access to the area to carry out essential repairs to homes and properties in the area."

Dalley said he had been "battling" with NZTA and CDC all day to get limited access to the road for residents and essential services.

"We have not been asking for open access...we have been very specific that we wanted access for the residents who have a right to access to their properties and for utility services and any emergency services, that's all we were asking for."

At 3pm today he was issued permits allowing about 10 water tankers access to supply properties on the closed section of the road.

Residents were given escorted access to the road for a short period on Sunday afternoon.

More such opportunities would be available to residents on Monday.

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Dalley travelled the full length of the road on Tuesday and believes it is not dangerous, apart from two areas which are at some risk of rockfall. 

"Our staff had the road opened one way within 24 hours of the event for emergency access and NZTA took it over and since then Hurunui District Council has had no control over the road."

Brownlee said he had spent a lot of Sunday trying to sort out the problem.

It is understood the decision was made locally and not by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

"The problem is the person who calls the shots on that is based in Christchurch, the issue is in Waiau and the national head quarters is in Wellington, and you just think 'this is just not the way to work'," Brownlee said.

He did not want to pour cold water on the "very good efforts" of so many people in Civil Defence, especially as many of them were volunteers who put in massive hours during an event like Kaikoura.

"But I think there's a number of things there could work could be enhanced by with a reconsideration of some of the reporting lines and some of the decision points."

He has already signalled an overhaul of civil defence structures.

A focus of any review will likely be the fragmented nature of civil defence, with a number of different reporting lines. Three different local authorities have declared a local state of emergency in response to the Kaikoura quakes.

 Brownlee said the priority for now was on keeping people safe and getting supplies to affected areas.

Dalley said being blocked from access had caused high levels of frustration among the community, already coping with the aftermath of the earthquake.

A resident who went to Waiau on Saturday was told she could not return to her home due to the road closure and was forced to stay overnight in Waiau as a result. 

Dalley said Mainpower staff and trucks arrived at 7am on Sunday morning but were denied access to the road.

"All those utility services were denied access when an army convoy was allowed through and are coming back in the night."

Dalley said the issue with the road closure did not overshadow the "fantastic response" to the region's needs in the past week. 

"We've got people from all over New Zealand working very hard helping us on this and I can't thank the response across the country enough."

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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