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Paying the price for progress

 

 

8 MF-Rumblesvhighway1-250A free-flowing, multi-lane motorway featuring gradual road bends, improved gradients and divided thoroughfare is an absolute necessity for drivers travelling the often treacherous State Highway 1 (SH1) Warkworth to Kaiwaka corridor.

However with progress there is usually some sacrifice and regarding New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA) new northern roading project, it is the lives of the landowners whose homes lie on the path of the proposed four lane motorway.

Shona and Alec Rumble own a farm along SH1 near Wellsford and say the new motorway will forge through the middle of their 106 acres cutting it into thirds, with their home on one side of the new motorway and 32 acres left unreachable on the other.

They will also lose six farm buildings at an estimated replacement cost of over $1 million.

“We’re not against the new proposal or progress but if the proposed plan goes ahead, one third of our land will be rendered useless.” Alec says. “The Hoteo River, which irrigates the farm and waters the stock, will be cut off from our remaining land. I now have to work out the logistics of how to pump water up from the river once the motorway goes through.”

The Rumbles have owned the land for nearly nine years, breeding cattle and thoroughbred horses for the race circuit for over seven years. Shona says it took over nine months to find the ‘perfect’ location of their home, close enough to shops for easy access yet still in a rural setting.

“This was going to be our retirement home, took me a long time to find it,” Shona says. “I try not to get too upset… don’t really like talking about it… but I am devastated.”

The section of the motorway that affects the Rumble’s land is the second leg of NZTA’s ‘Ara Tuhono Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance’ which bypasses Dome Valley and Wellsford town before reconnecting with SH1 north of Mangawhai Road and will take up to four years to complete.

The exact route, however, will not be finalised until NZTA have conducted soil tests, leaving the Rumbles and other affected landowners, including seven homes in a 3km radius of the Rumble’s property, in a state of limbo until December.

Although they have been had some contact with NZTA, Alec and Shona say the agency is ‘not committing to anything’ until after the soil testing.

“Not sure why NZTA did not do soil testing before drawing up the proposed plans,” Alec says. “It’s unsettling. What’s the point in doing work or planting anything. I’ll fix things still but won’t start metaling the driveway or anything that costs money… the land might not be here.”

Alec also points out that the section of their land designated for the new highway lies along flood lands.

“It is notorious for flooding,” Alec says. “It was so bad one year, a woman had to be rescued when water went right over the top of her car.”

He says an alternative route has been outlined on the proposal which would not be so disruptive, directing the motorway away from the flood lands and leaving the Rumbles farm intact with only the bottom of their land being used.

The thought of moving and beginning again is overwhelming for the couple who are in their late sixties, saying to pack and move as well as sell 80-100 cattle, trailers and machinery, is a ‘huge undertaking’.

“Some people say ‘don’t worry, you’ll get lots of money’ but they don’t understand,” Shona says. “It’s a loss of income, a home, future plans and prospects… it’s not all about the money.”

In a statement to the Focus, NZTA media manager, Sarah Azam, says in regards to the soil testing, although private properties were not tested prior to the public release and consultation of the Indicative Route, numerous studies were conducted previously in the broader area.

“Those results contributed to decisions about the Indicative Route. The environmental and geotechnical investigations will then inform how the proposed motorway will be built within the corridor we are seeking,” she says.

“The Indicative Route is designed to locate the motorway primarily outside of the Wayby Valley flood plain. Flood modelling will ensure the construction of the road does not adversely affect flood prone areas.

Culverts, bridges and viaducts will also be part of the design to ensure existing overland flood paths are not blocked by the road or its infrastructure.”

Azam goes on to say that in regards to land becoming inaccessible, generally NZTA are required to buy the land.

“Each case depends on the circumstances. Access to land severed by a motorway takes into account the current land use, the physical extent of land acquired for roading, the location and size of the severed land and whether the costs of providing alternative access exceed the value of the severed land,” she says.

“In certain circumstances access across the motorway may be required, in which case a stock underpass or a new driveway may be built to connect to the local road network. The precise approach will vary from property to property.”

UPSET: Rolling green pastures now but Alec Rumble will be estranged from 32 acres stretching from the hills to Wayby Valley Road (note red lines), while another third is designated for the new motorway, cutting the Rumbles farm off at the treeline.

“This was going to be our retirement home, took me a long time to find it. I try not to get too upset… don’t really like talking about it… but I am devastated.”

- Shona Rumble


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