Roads have long been part of the stories of our lives. An epiphanic one to Damascus; Marco Polo’s Silk Road; Bing and Bob’s many roads from Hollywood to world hotspots; John Denver’s Country and Elton’s Yellow Brick ones; even the Beatles got in the act with a Long and Winding Road, recorded on the short and mostly straight Abbey Road. Magical, mystical, musical, mundane roads to somewhere, roads to nowhere, roads ad infinitum.
So our own local Lawrence Road story is up against some pretty tough opposition as we try to keep it to the forefront of Council minds. There may not be a lot of romance to our few kilometres of unsealed surface, but it can bring a few tears when the west wind blows and the dust swirls into our eyes, lungs and water tanks.
To get back on the right track, let’s back up a little. And let’s bear in mind the aim is not to throw mud at the Council, even though there’s ample ammunition to hand after the recent rain. Rather, let’s go down the path of the impossible challenges that await any local government when they face the need to develop, and finance, an equitable rural roading policy.
It’s been said that there are some 1,200 kilometres of unsealed roads in the KDC catchment and the cost of converting these to sealed surfaces is a sum of significant magnitude. This becomes apparent when one considers that an amount of $3 million is supposedly being provided to pave a three kilometre pathway from Mangawhai Village to the Heads. Take this to mean the Council’s looking at something like a $1,200,000,000 outlay for starters, let alone any ongoing maintenance costs. No Provincial Growth Fund is going to put much of a dent in that.
Our plaintive note published some weeks back in the Mangawhai Focus, along with some very positive action by local residents liaising with the Council, has seen a positive response from the roading team at KDC. We’ve been graded and rolled, and copious layers of the so-called rotten rock have been laid the length of our road and others nearby. The result is a surface that, in the main, is weathering well despite the fact that it’s now been discovered as a brilliant rally track for the speed-obsessed in the community.
Our Council has also, sensibly, placed a school bus route sign at the northern entrance to Lawrence Road but sadly that’s proving no hindrance to the two- and four-wheeled fiends who drive with an apparent death wish. A revised (i.e. lowered) speed limit seems wishful thinking and probably wouldn’t achieve a lot in the face of some local driving attitudes.
All in all, on the surface, we’ve gone from a corrugated, potholed track to a (mainly) smooth roadway that seems to be holding up well under an increasing traffic flow. So we should be happy. However, despite Council’s hard work and the well-intended efforts of individuals and organisations, we’re still concerned that it’s just a temporary solution to an ongoing problem.
Fundamentally we appreciate that it’s a money issue, with the Council being financially restricted to carrying out short-term patch-ups to the same recurring issue year after year. Over the eight or so years we’ve lived on Lawrence Road that’s what we’ve seen. And the accumulated cost of these repairs surely must go close to matching the cost of the long-
term sealing solution which would give us a better road surface through all seasons and also give the Council a financial and physical break from constant maintenance.
In our dreams, logic would prevail. Unfortunately however, the short-term patchwork approach comes from the top, with national governments (please note the small “n” – we want to be unfair to everyone) historically reluctant to commit to a long term approach on most matters. This is generally dictated by three-year terms of governance and sets a pattern of short-term attention to enduring issues. The chances of our Council rebelling against that ingrained methodology are as likely as pigs piloting planes.
So hypothetically we’ve reached a fork in the road. One option points to a wonderfully sealed way ahead, with white lines showing the wayward driver the correct line through corners and where we Lawrencians dwell in a wonderful world free of dust and potholes for the foreseeable future. The other more likely option turns out to be a loop road that leads us back to begin the same old same old patch-and-repair processes over and over again.
What are the chances?
Lawrence Road residents are looking for a more permanent solution to their unsealed road problems. PHOTO/JULIA WADE
The accumulated cost of these repairs surely must go close to matching the cost of the long-term sealing solution which would give us a better road surface…