A new $5 million-plus road to Waiinu Beach could kill off Waitotara Village but is badly needed by elderly beach residents, locals say.
Construction of the road from Nukumaru to Waiinu Beach could start this summer, South Taranaki District Council engineering services manager Brent Manning said.
It will guarantee access to the beach and the Silver Fern Farms Waitotara meatworks, should the fragile Limeworks Bridge on Waiinu Beach Rd fail.
After it is built use of the bridge will be limited to cars only.
Progress toward the new road has been fraught.
It is good for Nukumaru farmer David Pearce. When the bridge has failed in floods he has allowed access across his farm which has been "most inconvenient" at times.
It is good for Waiinu Beach residents, who could be stranded if the Limeworks Bridge fails completely.
But the new road is across the property of Pearce's neighbour, Diana Handley, and she objected to it.
"This has been the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life, and there has been so much misinformation," she said.
Her objection resulted in a long delay and a hearing in the Environment Court. The court found mostly in the council's favour, and the road can now be built.
Handley says matters are still unresolved between her and the council.
Residents at Waiinu Beach have mixed feelings about the new road. Some want it while others would prefer a new and sturdy bridge on the Waiinu Beach Rd, their usual route.
Some say a better place could be chosen for a new bridge, where the ground is firmer.
But building a new bridge would cost more than building the new road, Manning said.
One beach resident, who didn't want to be named, said the new road was a "no-brainer" and Handley had held residents "at ransom" by objecting to it.
"We desperately need it. We have had months and months of going through shitty paddocks, at the kindness of the farmer."
If the bridge fails the meatworks will close, she said, and people will be out of work.
"It's a no-brainer. [The road] has got to happen."
Chris Swetman owns Waitotara Hotel & Store in Waitotara village. He expects the new road to affect his business badly.
Beach resident Mick Zimmerman has lived in the area all his life, and agrees.
"The village is virtually dead now, but [the road] would make the village more dead."
Some at the beach and in the village have jobs at the meatworks. For village residents the new road will add 15 minutes to their drive to work.
The meatworks has a peak staff of about 350, and most live in Whanganui. Their commute will be quicker.
The Waitotara Store sells food and drink to truckies driving to the meatworks. They will have to take the new road and the store will miss out on their business. If summer visitors use the new road the store will miss out on that trade.
Waverley businesses could also be affected, with people deciding to go the extra distance to Whanganui where there is more shopping, Swetman said.
Pearce has lost count of the number of times his farm access has been used when the Limeworks Bridge isn't safe. He's relieved a decision to build the road has finally been made and sorry the process has been so difficult.