Track closed by slips after heavy rains
Piako's long-time link over the Kaimai Ranges will be closed until next summer.
Thompsons Track, off Wairakau Rd about 12km from Te Aroha, was hit by 300mm of rain in three or four hours on the Thursday before Easter.
A staff report tabled at a recent Matamata-Piako District Council corporate and operations committee meeting said the downpour turned small streams into raging torrents of rocks, mud and trees.
A later inspection found 20 slips across the track ranging in size from a few truck-loads of material up to 30m-long sections of track buried by rock, soil and vegetation.
The council, which owns the track, has an annual maintenance budget for it of $6500. Repairing storm damage would cost about $20,000.
The track is today popular with four-wheel drive vehicles, the staff report said. It is also regularly used by trampers, mountain bikers, hunters and horse riders.
It is used occasionally by Department of Conservation staff to access their tracks along the ranges.
"The recreational use of this track creates similar benefits for the district as the mountain bike tracks above Te Aroha town," said the report. "Track users will often stop in Te Aroha to purchase fuel, food and occasionally accommodation services."
NZ Four Wheel Drive Association, which regularly uses the track, has offered to help "in any way they can" with repairs.
The council committee initially considered allocating $15,000. The association was asked for $5000.
However, Cr Ash Tanner said the association is not the only user and recommended the council fund the full $20,000. "Let's just get the job done."
Opposing this, Cr Bob McGrail said there should be a toll for track users. "There are no free lunches these days."
Mayor Jan Barnes said the council could use two years worth of maintenance grants ($13,000) and give another $2000, then negotiate with the 4WD association.
This motion was lost, with Cr Peter Jager successfully recommending the council combine both annual grants with another of $10,000 ($23,000 in total). Work will be done in summer.
BIG CLEANUP AHEAD
Matamata-Piako District Council advises people to stay off Thompsons Track until slips are cleared. This includes all vehicles, four-wheel drives and motorcycles. The access gate will be locked until the track is reopened. -