A long-running dust plague threatening the health of 13 families on Ngapipito Rd near Moerewa is finally about to end.
An agreement by the NZ Transport Agency to reallocate more than $10 million in road funding means the Far North District Council can seal critical sections of Ngapipito and Pipiwai Rds and strengthen a further 40km of unsealed roads heavily used by logging trucks.
Residents of both roads have been outspoken about the harmful effects of road dust, which has become acute in recent years because of increasing forestry traffic.
The section of Ngapipito Rd to be sealed stretches 4.1km west from a point near Tana Rd where the seal currently ends. Pipiwai Rd's 1.9km seal extension will be between Lovatt and Omauri Rds. Work is due to be completed by April.
The two sealing projects will cost an estimated $1.1m.
Ngapipito Rd's Murray Armstrong, who has been lobbying the council to fix the dust hazard on a 4.2km stretch of road for the past five years, said residents were excited by the prospect of having a sealed road — though he was surprised to learn about it from media before he heard from the council.
He had made submissions, documented the dust and potholes, and organised a series of road blocks last summer to highlight the problem. The fine dust contaminated water supplies, affected breathing and forced residents to keep their windows shut even in the height of summer.
The 4.2km section of road included 13 households with children, kaumatua and kuia, and people with asthma.
''They're all affected,'' Mr Armstrong said.
Councillor Ann Court, who chairs the Far North District Council's operations committee, said NZTA's agreement to reallocate road funding had allowed the council to address significant summer dust problems on the two roads.
"This is a great result for families living along these roads who are dealing with unacceptable levels of dust ... They will begin experiencing significantly improved conditions before the summer is over."
However, Ms Court said it didn't mean all dust-prone roads would now be sealed, because NZTA set a high threshold for reallocating money for dust mitigation.
NZTA had also agreed to reallocate funding to strengthen more than 40km of unsealed roads. The upgrade, which will include using geotextiles to strengthen road edges, extending culverts and improving drainage, would cover 11.4km of Ngapipito Rd, 11.3km of Pipiwai Rd and 18.2km of Matawaia-Maromaku Rd. The resulting savings in road maintenance could then be spent on other unsealed roads.
A council spokesman said NZTA had granted $10.8m in one-off extra funding for 2015-18 to strengthen Far North roads worst affected by the forestry industry. That included strengthening required on Pipiwai and Ngapipito Rds before seal could be applied.
The cost of the sealing itself would be covered by reallocating finding from projects completed under budget or deferred from this financial year to next.