Protest blocks road

By Lindy Laird

The road block saw traffic held up for five hours. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The road block saw traffic held up for five hours. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Pipiwai residents have carried out a long-standing threat to block an unsealed road heavily used by forestry vehicles.

Pipiwai Titoki Roads Action Group staged a five-hour protest yesterday on the boundary of Whangarei and Far North districts, after a year-long stalemate over the problem of excess dust raised by logging traffic on unsealed roads in the area.

After a good-natured stand-off that lasted until about 1pm, group members moved from the site and truck movements were able to continue.

Residents are calling for the Far North and Whangarei district councils to seal the worst-affected stretches of roads outside homes or make the logging trucks use other routes.

During yesterday's stand-off, several trucks were halted at either side of a roadblock at Pipiwai Rd, where the Whangarei district's sealed end meets the unsealed Far North section.

About 12 locals, a Hancock Forestry Management staff member and Whangarei police iwi liaison officer Rick Brown were at the scene.

A spokesperson said the police were there to ensure public safety and the issue was one between the community and the councils.

Resident Puti Tipene said the group had stopped the trucks to make a point. Ms Tipene said several meetings and submissions had not resolved the dust issue and local concerns had been ignored.

Both districts councils have supported using dust sealant on the worst affected areas outside homes, work the Government does not subsidise and for which the councils rely on contributions from forestry companies or landowners.

Pipiwai resident Poncho Peihopa at the road block. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Pipiwai resident Poncho Peihopa at the road block. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Far North District Council spokesman Richard Edmondson said: "We accept that residents still have concerns about the dust nuisance. Mayor John Carter and chief executive Colin Dale are happy to meet with them and Hancock Forest Management again to discuss further remedial options.

"We are also aware of the concerns other residents on our metal road network have about dust and are developing a regional dust mitigation strategy with other Northland councils."

The dust problem led former Northland medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman to last year order a micron test on the size and density of particles on a number of logging truck routes.

In May, tests showed that on nine days out of 21, the minimum particle size considered dangerous to health was exceeded.

- Northern Advocate

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