Logging boom good for economy, bad for roads

By Mike Dinsdale

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Otaika Valley Rd resident Selwyn Norris says residents of the valley are worried about a predicted 53 per cent increase in the amount of logs being transported down their road. Photo/John Stone
Otaika Valley Rd resident Selwyn Norris says residents of the valley are worried about a predicted 53 per cent increase in the amount of logs being transported down their road. Photo/John Stone

Otaika Valley residents are wary of a "mind-boggling" 53 per cent increase in logging trucks on their roads as Whangarei District Council seeks an extra $1 million a year from the Government to repair the damage from those trucks.

Northland's wall of wood will cause major problems to the region's roads, with a new survey predicting a 53 per cent increase in the amount of logs harvested in the next decade, with Whangarei's logging roads expected to bear the brunt of the increase.

The council yesterday received a report, The Forestry Road Management Strategy Analysis, predicting the amount of logs through Whangarei will go from 2.6 million cubic metres to 4 million cubic metres.

It's a situation causing concern for the council, with the report estimating the cost of damage from logging trucks to the district's logging routes - mainly Mangakahia Rd and Otaika Valley/Loop Rds - to be an extra $1 million a year.

It's expected to see 195 truckloads per day, or 1 truck every three minutes on average, going down Otaika Valley Rd, where the number of logging trucks (averaging about one every eight minutes) is already a concern for residents. About 125 truckloads per day, or one truck every five minutes, are due to travel down Mangakahia Rd.

The increase is expected to lead to a rise in jobs in the forestry and associated sectors, but it's the effects on the roads that are worrying residents.

Otaika Valley Rd resident Selwyn Norris, who is on the committee of Otaika Valley residents/council and logging industry representatives, said the expected increase was a shock and residents felt the road could not handle the amount of logging trucks already using it.

"That level of increase is just mind-boggling really. To get that increase without seriously upgrading the road is quite scary. We support the logging industry and what the council is trying to do, but I think we need more help from the Government. It's just getting worse and worse all the time," Mr Norris said.

"The truckies have been doing their bit generally in slowing down on the road, and we understand that they have to do their jobs, too, but we have some issues about [the predicted increase in logging trucks] because those figures [195 truckloads per day] only take into account the journey when full. They also to go up there empty to get the logs, so you can double that."

The road was constantly being repaired because of the damage from logging trucks already and he was particularly worried about the extra trucks making it even more dangerous for children to walk to school bus stops.

The council voted yesterday to ask the Government for more money from the 2015-2018 National Land Transport Programme to offset the effect of forestry harvesting on its roading network.

Between 2002 and 2012 a Regional Development Fund gave more than $33 million for improvement projects to 70km of forestry roads in Whangarei.

- Northern Advocate

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