Families up in arms at logging road havoc
A group of rural residents living near Dovedale say their quiet life has been shattered by logging and are angry at the Tasman District Council for allowing it to happen.
The Sunday Creek families are fed up with a steady stream of logging trucks using their narrow, gravel road, saying it is dangerous, damaging and highly disruptive.
They say they have had to put up with months of being woken up at night by trucks and are so worried for the safety of their children they have banned them from biking or walking on their only access road.
A spokesman, Brent Boyce, said it was never designed to carry such heavy loads and had collapsed in places and quickly turned to slush. The abutments of a bridge had started to sink and crack and many culverts had failed.
All residents had reported having close calls with logging trucks, which were too often exceeding a 30kmh speed limit, he said.
There was a "very real likelihood" someone would be seriously injured or killed, Mr Boyce said.
Road conditions had been so poor on occasions residents could only get out using four-wheel-drive, which left the elderly and a heavily pregnant woman vulnerable, he said. The local school bus driver had voiced concern and NZ Post had said it would no longer deliver mail to individual boxes.
Mr Boyce said after numerous complaints the TDC had finally sent subcontractors out last week to make temporary repairs to the Dovedale end of the road, but only after residents had threatened to go to the media.
The council had failed to communicate and been slow to act, with even its main roading contractor admitting it had "dropped the ball". It had also done a poor job monitoring the impacts of the logging operation, he said.
Residents felt misled by forestry owner Nelson Forests which had initially informed them just before Christmas that logging would only take three weeks to clear up windthrow during which time the road would be closed intermittently. However, this had "morphed" into a full harvest which was still continuing.
"This was never communicated to residents by either the forestry company or by the TDC."
The company had also left large piles of forestry slash heaped just above the road and blocking several gullies which could be a danger in heavy rain.
"Before the harvest, people walked, biked and rode horses on this road. Now it is unsafe."
Residents were not anti-logging but wanted it better controlled, he said.
Amberleigh Stratford, a mother of two young children, said she was tired of being awoken at 2am by logging trucks, one of up to 15 which made the trip every day. "I've had enough of it and there is no way we should be putting up with this." She had repeatedly rung the TDC and Nelson Forests to complain.
Keith Upson, who runs an engineering business, said he got so desperate after not getting any response from the council that he used his own digger to clear the road, while Cathy Peter said it was disrupting their family farming operations.
Another farmer, Lex Stratford, said the council did not seem to realise that "our little, flimsy road" required regular maintenance to withstand the rigours of a substantial logging operation.
TDC communications manager Chris Choat said the council and its contractors was aware of the impact the forestry operation was having on the road and were focused on keeping it passable for residents but were combating the effects of a very wet winter.
It was responding as quickly as possible to ensure disruption and damage were minimised through maintenance work and had plans to upgrade culverts and drains, he said.
Nelson Forests was maintaining the public road beyond the last house to the plantation and the council was looking after the section to Dovedale Rd, Mr Choat said.
Nelson Forests chief operations manager David Robinson said the company was very concerned by the issues raised by residents, none of which have been raised directly with it, and was happy to meet so they could be worked through together.
It took adverse feedback seriously and would respond "in a proactive way".
The road was the only one available that enabled the company to access the domestic market, which made up 70 per cent of its sales, he said.
If no further wind damage to trees occurred, logging would continue to March "then we'll pull back to a monitoring phase", Mr Robinson said.
- © Fairfax NZ News