Thursday, May 19, 2022

Peninsula farmers on road to nowhere

For the past 10 weeks, Banks Peninsula farmers John and Carol Masefield have had 16 gates to open and a bumpy quad bike ride to get to their vehicle and into town, while their farm remains cut off from the world.

With no cell phone connectivity and now an impassable road, John and Carol Masefield say the sense of isolation on-farm was definitely heightened.

For the past 10 weeks, Banks Peninsula farmers John and Carol Masefield have had 16 gates to open and a bumpy quad bike ride to get to their vehicle and into town, while their farm remains cut off from the world.

Ever since a massive rainstorm on December 15 sluiced Goughs Bay with 300mm of rain in 15 hours, the bay’s road has been rendered impassable and repair still seems weeks away. The road down to their farm has disappeared for 30 metres across its one-lane width, slumping 20m down the hillside after the major event.

The couple are well used to enduring periods of isolation due to weather, but it is the slow action of the Christchurch City Council that has left them concerned the remote corner of the council’s catchment has been forgotten.

“I have had no communications from council about timing. I rang over a week ago and asked politely what was going to happen, someone said they would come back to me, and I am still waiting,” Masefield said.

A council spokesperson said the Goughs Bay damage was a complex case.

“We don’t have a firm timeframe as yet for restoring the road,” she said.

A web-based update put out by council cites work was under way to create a 4WD track for residents.

“A shingle track has been constructed that will allow us to get out through Paua Bay, but it’s steep and our access is only with a 4WD quad bike. We had three days of rain recently and you could not get up or down it,” he said.

Until the track had been constructed, their only other way out was via the farm, which at certain times of the year would require as many as 16 gates be open and shut.

The council’s website states further clearing of slips and dropouts will commence once access can be gained via the Paua Bay track for heavy vehicles.

He said it was impossible for the likes of stock trucks to access the farm, necessitating moving stock out via a neighbour’s property. The couple also lost a major bridge in the event, which required a helicopter to bring in materials to rebuild it.

With the slow response to access, Masefield said he was left wondering what he paid rates for and he had some ideas of his own about where the road could be rerouted.

With no cell phone connectivity and now an impassable road, he said the sense of isolation was definitely heightened. For safety everyone on the farm wears emergency locator beacons in case of accidents.

“My concern is that the temporary track becomes something of a permanent one and we don’t see the repairs we need to the road,’’ he said. 

“I believe this is also the result of a lack of overall maintenance of roads here on the Peninsula; there has been no contouring using a grader on the roads, water tables are high and culverts blocked.”

Masefield acknowledged that if worse came to worst, he at least did still have his horse.

“But at one stage I came back around the coast on it through a high tide and the novelty of that wears off pretty quick,” he said.

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