Wed, Apr 20, 2022 3:46 PM

Sounds farmers need certainty



Andrew Ritchie

Huge ongoing costs and no certainty have farmers in the Keneperu Sounds operating on a knife edge because of the lack of road access.

Mike Richards who has a mussel farm in Waitaria Bay has been able to use the road with a light vehicle using a Resident’s Only Pass since the road opened, following the catastrophic floods in July.

The Council issued a new code recently which allows bach owners and holiday makers to use the road without a pass providing they only have a light vehicle.

Mike’s concern, as a regular road user is that little progress appears to be being made to restore the road to pre July’s conditions.

The Hopkinson family farm 1000 hectares in the Sounds at Titirangi.

Emma Hopkinson says the ongoing extra financial costs caused by the inability of trucks to access the farming community is crippling.

All trucks have to utilise Johnsons Barges to service the farms.

Emma says a round trip costs approximately $7000 and if the barge has to wait for a return load waiting time costs $250/hour.

She praises the Sounds community who have pulled forces to plan the logistics of each trip.

A slipway has been constructed at Fish Bay which is in a central position to accommodate the majority of users in the area.

Haulier Gareth Parkes has served the community well during the road closure, coordinating loads and often has to stay overnight in the sounds to avoid the waiting time charges for the barge.

Emma says that the extra costs due to the lack of road access is difficult to explain to bankers and accountants when the books are not balancing.

She says that a neighbour estimated it has already cost an additional $100,000 in transport costs to date and no end is in sight.

A spokesperson for Marlborough Roads said there was no indication of when normal road access would be available but it looks as though it will be a “considerable amount of time.”

“The repairs are extremely complex and there is a lot of damage underneath the road.”

The worst affected area is a 19km stretch around Portage.

Currently the road has reopened for six wheeler trucks, under twelve tonnes and no longer than eight metres.

Permits can be applied for vehicles exceeding these specifications from Marlborough Roads.

Kim Weatherhead is the Office and Logistics Manager for Johnsons Barges at Havelock.

She says they have been very busy since the floods of July, moving 40 to 50 cars per day initially.

Since October they have barged over 13,000 sheep,1000 cattle,500 bales of wool,40 truck and trailer loads, tonnes of fertiliser and stock feed.

Initially there was a Mayoral relief fund set up, which enabled transport to be provided at a very reduced cost.

Since then the Council have combined with MPI to provide some funding.

The decision was made to spread the funding over an extended period rather than provide free services that would mean the money disappearing quite quickly.

However the road repairs are not going to be fixed quickly so Council is attempting to access more government funding to cover an extended period.

Dean Heiford who manages community support services at Marlborough District Council told Kim Weatherhead that the Sounds community may be concerned that repairs are not happening quickly enough, but that they aim to have an improved access road on completion rather than one that has just been patched up.

Kim praised the community for coming together, thanking the Leslie brothers for clearing some of the massive slips and stock agents and Parkes haulage for making the logistics easier to manage.

The increase in fuel costs have made costs unpredictable but the company have been pleased to help the community as best they can.

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