Dust hits danger level

By Alexandra Newlove

7 comments
Alex Wright, with fellow Pipiwai residents, says court action is the only option if councillors ignore the ongoing plea to seal their roads. Photo / John Stone
Alex Wright, with fellow Pipiwai residents, says court action is the only option if councillors ignore the ongoing plea to seal their roads. Photo / John Stone

Residents living on a notoriously dusty logging truck route have given Whangarei's leadership an ultimatum - they will go to court to stop truck traffic if the roads are not sealed soon.

Results from air quality monitoring on Pipiwai's Wright Rd have shown $532,000 of strip sealing in front of houses, which Whangarei District Council (WDC) carried out last year, has not worked.

The council had hoped the strip seals would fix the dangerous dust levels generated by passing trucks, but the results showed levels still exceeded the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality. It appeared strip sealing was ineffective as trucks dragged dust clouds along with them.

Alex Wright, spokeswoman for Pipiwai Titoki Advocacy for Community Health and Safety Group, spoke to councillors at the submissions hearings for the 2016-17 Annual Plan. The group was entering their 12th year of campaigning and Ms Wright wanted the council to completely seal Wright and McCardle roads. "The law is clearly on our side and now we really really need, and would like, the council on our side," she said.

In its Long Term Plan, WDC had allowed for $4.25 million to fully seal the roads by the end 2018. However, this was contingent on NZ Transport Agency funding, which never eventuated, so the sealing was removed from the plan.

Ms Wright said in a letter to Mayor Sheryl Mai that her group would seek an injunction to stop trucks using the roads as a thoroughfare if the issue was not addressed through the Annual Plan.

Dust monitoring carried out by district council contractors from February to March showed 11 exceedances of particulate matter 10 micrometres in diameter or less (PM10), the standard used in national air quality standards. Legally, only one exceedance per calendar year was allowed.

Emission Impossible air quality specialist Louise Wickham said PM10 matter was a group 1 carcinogen, based on the increased risk of lung cancer.

"It's also important to understand these exceedances are primarily caused by the increased number of logging trucks using Wright and McCardle roads. So this is not an issue of people buying a house in the country and then complaining about dusty country air," she said.

Northland District Health Board's medical officer of health Clair Mills also submitted in support of Ms Wright's call to have the roads sealed.

- Northern Advocate

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