Forestry, sheep and beef, manuka honey and carbon farming justify keeping remote Watershed Rd maintained and improved, a resident says.

People would be surprised at how much produce rolls out of it, Hans Brink said.

The road's 23 narrow, winding, ridgetop kilometres take off from the junction of Rangitatau East and Kauarapaoa roads inland from Kai Iwi. Its end point is 700m above sea level and not too far from Jerusalem on the Whanganui River.

Watershed Rd has just four residents. Long stretches run through native bush, with steep drops on each side. But there is also cleared country with sheep and cattle and large plantations of pines.


The abundance of manuka draws in a lot of beekeepers between Christmas and March, Mr Brink said.

Much of the nearby Ahuahu Valley has been bought by the Tweeddale honey business.

Mr Brink has lived 9km into the road for 33 years, and seen the transition from sheep and beef to pine plantations and honey ventures.

He's part owner of the 1400ha Medlicott Forest, which is almost ready to harvest. He also farms sheep and beef on 400ha of cleared hill country.

He likes native bush, but he doesn't want to see cleared land revert to it and stop producing.

"All these roads going into the hinterland all over New Zealand - they were only ever put there to get produce off the land. They weren't put out here so people could live here and drive into town and go shopping."

He's heard Whanganui District Council is considering a levy on forest owners to pay for the road upgrades needed as forest is harvested.

There are several private forests in the area, and Horizons Regional Council has a joint venture one in the Ahuahu Valley.

"There's a conflict of interest between the district and regional council. The regional council is actively encouraging afforestation. The district doesn't want to know about it, because of the road thing. They're an old school council, with a bias toward pasture," Mr Brink said.

Watershed Rd may soon have another product. Beekeeper Keith Rodie has bought Taunoka Station at the far end. He's planting 80ha of flats in mānuka, and plans to harvest the foliage and distil out mānuka oil.

Mr Brink isn't against the "manuka brigade", but he wants to maintain a diversity of production on the road.

He said upgrading it would make future harvests cheaper and easier, and the upgrade could come with conditions.

"If council and government are putting in to upgrade the roading system, then it should be compulsory for forest owners to replant in timber trees for a continuous forestry industry."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the new owners of the Ahuahu Valley, the Tweeddale honey business, had intentionally burned down houses in the valley. This was unsubstantiated. No representative for the Tweeddale honey business was asked for comment prior to publication. The Wanganui Chronicle unreservedly apologises to Mr and Mrs Tweeddale for the distress incurred, and retracts the statement and any imputation that Mr and Mrs Tweeddale, or any person associated with them or their business, was responsible for any intentional act of arson.