Progress possible for troubled road
An 80 strong crowd of Cames Road residents filled all chairs at The Club Mangawhai’s conference room on March 6, where they met with Kaipara District Council [KDC] members to air frustration and concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the local metal road.
Deputy Mayor Peter Wethey, West Coast/Central Ward councillor Anna Curnow, Asset Manager Andy Brown and Infrastructure Manager Curt Martin as well as members of the council’s roading team fronted up to the meeting, which at times became somewhat heated.
In welcoming everyone, Peter Wethey stated the issues on Cames Road ‘go way back’ and noted that ‘changes haven’t progressed in step with development and traffic movements’. Realising the frustration of residents, he called for an orderly meeting allowing for everyone a chance to express their concerns and to ‘see how we can address them’.
Consisting of a narrow stretch of mainly metal with sections of concrete and sealed areas, Cames connects Mangawhai Road with Mangawhai/Kaiwaka Road via Lawrence, the route often being used as an alternative way into Mangawhai Village. The risks of extra traffic along Cames was highlighted recently with the temporary restriction of heavy trucks unable to cross Insley Street Bridge after it was deemed unsafe, resulting in an increase of large vehicles using Cames as a detour.
Resident’s concerns range from not being able to walk along the road safely without being run off by trucks, ‘speeding hoons’, collusions on the narrow stretches ‘nose-to-nose and nowhere to go’ as well as the danger of children waiting for the school bus being vulnerable to passing vehicles and being ‘sprayed by stones and covered with dust’. Residents fear someone will be killed on Cames due to the treacherous conditions, ‘we all feel on a whole that the road is unsafe… and does not function to support the community’.
Once the Insley Bridge repairs are underway with some closure periods required of up to 48 hours, Curt Martin admitted necessary detours will mean residents will again see an increase in traffic for a short duration.
“What we can do in the interim is implement a temporary speed restriction on Cames Road to improve the safety.”
A 50km speed restrictions was debated and refuted however as residents say the limit was not enforced, and a Cames resident truck driver says for trucks, ‘50kms would be suicidal’. He also questioned the economics of grading the road every two weeks when it would be more cost effective to widen and reseal the road.
The quality of the roading metal used on Cames was also raised, with one resident, to crowd applause, showing samples of tank water and dust accumulation scrapped from his house spouting. However, although council’s own legislation ‘the matrix’ states that ‘roads with 31 houses or more have to be fully sealed’, Cames, which has more than 31 dwellings, does not make the council’s priority list for sealant due to budget restrictions.
Other safety options Martin offered for Cames include widening the road and improving the narrow sections, although these are still ‘not on the council’s high priority list’.
“However we will review that priority. In a couple of months I can tell you where Cames Road fits on that list, I can’t make any more commitment at this stage.”
Martin also appeared to astonish the residents by stating council actually have no legal obligations under the local government act to construct or maintain any roads, ‘although we obviously do’ he says.
Disagreement arose over some of the information KDC used to decide roading evaluations. Residents argued the councils claim that ‘the road is a low volume road’ is based on 2015 road readings and does not represent the current traffic flow nor reflect the recent growth and development occurring in the area over the last few years.
When asked if any of the recent $27millon given to KDC for roading is available Wethey says ‘a very significant amount’ has been allocated by the government to targeted projects.
“Council has only a small percentage of discretion regarding where we can put those funds. When we find out the governments contracts then we can see clear where to spend money on other roads that haven’t been named in the contracts.”
However Andy Brown had a positive future prospect for the residents.
As the KDC’s Asset Manager, Brown discovered ‘the significant damage to the tune of $2million’ on Insley Street Bridge but says even with repairs, the bridge has had its day.
“Insley Street Bridge needs to be replaced in 15 years,” he says. “We also need to build some safe walking ways so kids can cross to the Tsunami area on Black Swamp Road. The big picture is, I need to build a new bridge, which means I need to find another way to get people into Mangawhai.”
However the only way to do that, he says is to justify funding from NZTA to turn Cames into a two-lane sealed road to be made suitable as a detour for 18 months while the new bridge is constructed.
The meeting appeared to conclude on a positive note with council addressing the safety concerns by agreeing to establish 50km speed signs along Cames with 30km along narrow sections of the road, and Police cooperation to monitor and enforce the speed limit. Council also committed to have road counters on both ends of Cames within a month, check the quality of roading aggregate and research the possibility and logistics of widening the road.
“Going forward, 2015 was four years ago, things have changed a hell of a lot, we need up-to-date information and I’m not comfortable with making decisions on old data,” Wethey says. “This situation will only get worse unless we take some action… we will do everything we can to make the road safer.”
A follow up meeting is planned in two months’ time ‘so you can hold us accountable’.
Cames Road was essentially a paper road of only a several hundred metres until Cames Rd West was formed with the development of Mangawhai Ridge Park. The increase in traffic flow also brought trouble and Police involvement, with frustrated residents at one time blocking thoroughfare with their cars. A temporary speed limit of 50kms was established by council, however the signs were apparently ignored resulting in KDC digging a trench to stop vehicles from passing through. This did not go down well with residents who filled the ditch back in several times only for council to repeatedly empty it, the situation became volatile at one stage with a council worker allegedly being attacked by a resident armed with a wrench.
In two separate incidences, the trench hindered the efforts by ambulance drivers trying to reach patients on Cames. A female resident who had suffered a heart attack, had to wait an extra 30 minutes for an ambulance to drive the 17kms around Mangawhai Village, before being able to be transported to hospital where sadly, she later died.
In mid-2010 council announced the road was open but only as a walkway and for 4WD vehicles, not cars or trucks. However Cames was eventually levelled and accessible to general traffic.