Court gives nod to river bank fix

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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The shoring up of the severely eroded river bank estuary at Tongaporutu will finally go ahead after the Environment Court approved the work.

Nga Hapu O Poutama appealed to the court last year to halt the correction work, arguing that the remnants of the pa site and urupa (cemetery) are waahi tapu (sacred).

When State Highway 3 was initially laid down in the 1940s it severed the pa site and cut through the urupa. Remains were removed before the road went through.

Nga Hapu O Poutama wanted the resource consent granted to New Zealand Transport Agency overturned, arguing that further damage to the waahi tapu could be avoided, remedied or mitigated.

The hapu believed there was a credible alternative.

The Environment Court decision rejected the hapu's stance.

In its decision the court said "the repair to SH3 was necessary to enable the people of the region to adequately provide for their economic wellbeing and their health and safety".

"We find that the New Zealand Transport Agency proposal is an appropriate means of doing so."

The court was not satisfied that the alternative advanced by Poutama was a reasonably acceptable alternative.

It considered the adverse effects had been "greatly overstated" by Poutama.

There was nothing in the evidence which suggested the structures would have any impact on the natural function of the river, the court ruled.

Costs were reserved.

The transport agency has now put the project out to tender.

"We expect work to begin next month and it should be finished by the end of April," the agency's regional highways manager, David McGonigal, said.

The embankment on which the highway was constructed was being eroded by tidal action and required rebuilding and armouring.

"The work will include rock protection and a low concrete retaining wall at the toe of the embankment where it meets the sea, along with soil reinstatement and stabilisation, planting and drainage works."

Once the work was completed the highway would be protected from future erosion and the prospect of slips that could take out the road from beneath, Mr McGonigal said.

The cost would be publicly released after tenders for the work closed.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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