Rural road group plans hikoi

By Lindy Laird

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Pipiwai Rd farm owner Mark Croucher and Alex Wright of Pipiwai Titoki Road Action Group with one of the signs the group has put up in the area.
Pipiwai Rd farm owner Mark Croucher and Alex Wright of Pipiwai Titoki Road Action Group with one of the signs the group has put up in the area.

The controversy around a rural health problem that local and central governments say belongs to each other will be voiced on Whangarei city streets when the Pipiwai Titoki Road Action Group holds a hikoi.

The group (PTRAG) is calling for others to join its protest march next Tuesday from Kensington Stadium to the WDC chambers, to arrive in time for the group's submission to the 2014-2015 Draft Annual plans to be heard. The hikoi will gather at 11am and leave the stadium at 12pm.

PTRAG says someone has to take liability for the situation that forces people to live in a cloud of dangerously fine dust particles laced with the powdered residue of a waste-oil based suppressant. It wants the worst tracts of roads to be sealed but says central and local government are passing the buck.

"Rural residents are being treated like second-class citizens although they pay taxes and rates," says Wright Rd resident Alex Wright.

Up to 100 logging trucks a day use a network of unsealed roads, the route agreed on by WDC and transport companies to keep the heavy traffic off sealed roads as much as possible.

Far North and Whangarei councils as well as the Government have repeatedly said there is no money for sealing roads outside the "national significance" criteria.

PTRAG and Whangarei council personnel have held meetings and will carry out a "drive-over" of the worst-affected roads at 10am today.

The road audit will take into account all potential road users and will produce a list of key hazards, safety issues and possible solutions.

In the meantime, the action group is awaiting answers to its questions over how, in breach of the Resource Management Act, the NRC gave consent for WDC roading contractors Fulton Hogan to use an oil-based dust suppressant outside homes and businesses.

"The most important detail for us concerning the Northland Regional Council is the fact that it consented to having a prohibited and illegal substance used on our unsealed roads. This product, tested by Hill Laboratories as being petroleum-based oil, was the council's answer for dust mitigation," Graham and Alex Wright said.

"If this dust mitigation strategy gets into our food chain will the Northland Regional Council be compensating those dairy farmers when Fonterra stops collecting their milk?"

- Northern Advocate

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