A community of Far North residents is outraged over the council's decision to knock back a motion to seal a notoriously slippery gravel road.
Parapara residents, local marae, a school bus company and a Far North district councillor are fuming thanks to Far North District Council's decision to dismiss their calls to seal an alleged dangerous stretch of Parapara Rd.
Residents said an increase in traffic, slippery gravel and a lack of safety barriers were what worried them most about the 1.2km section of road on "Parapara Hill".
Last Thursday, the council held its first face-to-face chamber meeting in Kaikohe in months, where councillor Mate Radich, along with a group of Parapara residents, attempted to pass a motion to immediately seal the section of Parapara Rd.
The motion failed to get backing from the other nine councillors.
That, according to the council, was because the motion meant it would be "jumping the cue" ahead of other roads on the existing Dust Matrix Prioritisation list.
FNDC explained the matrix was used to inform decision making for investment in seal extension and dust nuisance management based on 22 different criteria.
It also worked with the council's allocated budget to identify roads with the highest need.
Radich said he was furious with the outcome and it was safety rather than dust people were concerned about.
"The council is missing the point- the sealing of Parapara Hill has nothing to do with the matrix system as there are no houses inside the required 80m on this hill," Radich said.
"Deputy Mayor Ann Court [who came up with the matrix concept] lives in an area of Kerikeri where most of the roads have been sealed.
"She needs to visit Parapara Hill and even Snelgar Rd hill to see the dangers residents have to put up with each day.
"They pay rates and deserve better."
According to the council, the Far North district comprises 1628km of unsealed road, the longest network of unsealed roads on the North Island.
Audits of Parapara Rd allegedly showed the road had been receiving maintenance on a regular basis within the agreed and funded level of service.
Inspections had also identified Parapara Rd had "sufficient pavement depth" and therefore did not require intensive intervention over and above routine grading and reshaping.
Parapara Rd resident Christine Goldsmith has been spearheading the local movement, campaigning for years alongside other residents to fix the road.
She said seven years ago FNDC had allegedly laid out Pukepoto red clay to attempt to help with the road, which in her opinion, had just made things worse.
"For more than 30 years residents have asked FNDC to do something about the hill and they have done absolutely nothing," Goldsmith said.
"Why did Church Rd get sealed with the 61 hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) safety barriers and I counted more than 100 logging trucks a day just last week?"
Parapara resident and Heffernan Law owner Anjenette Heffernan explained her car slid off Parapara Rd on Tuesday, just a few hundred metres down the road from the hill.
She said if she had fallen anywhere before that, she feared the accident might have been fatal.
"I slid on a bit of gravel, so I was lucky I only fell down the side of the road," Heffernan said.
"That hill is very dangerous and in winter I have to travel at around 15km around the corners because it's so slippery.
"The amount of traffic now passing through this road is unreal, it's become a very busy road."
Parapara Marae representative TinaLee Yates explained the marae's biggest concern was the safety of the tamariki (children) who travelled in buses up and down the hill every day to four schools around the district.
Ritchies Transport Kaitaia branch supervisor Chris Bellas said while he felt all roads around Northland were poor, in his opinion, Parapara Rd was particularly dangerous.
"Our school bus goes to Taipā Area School and I'm always hearing from the bus driver about his concerns regarding that road," Bellas said.
"The bus is obviously a bigger vehicle, so it can often get quite slippery there on the corrugation.
"I've driven on that hill myself through winter and it's the worst — it definitely needs to be sealed and a safety barrier placed along the road."
According to FNDC, the cost of sealing a road was around $450,000 a kilometre, equating to a total of $7 billion for the Far North economy for all unsealed roads.
The estimated cost to seal Parapara Rd was said to be $500,000 (based on historic averages), however, recent sites completed had been closer to $700,000 a kilometre.
Funding for roads was sourced mainly through Waka Kotahi via the National Land Transport Programme, however, the council can also apply to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund (TIF), Provincial Growth Fund, Economic Stimulus and Employment Opportunities (ESEO) or via the unsubsidised ratepayer contribution.
The council explained it had $2 million set aside a year in its long-term plan (plus inflation) for unsealed roads in the years 2022 to 2028.
If the council qualifies for and receives a subsidy, this would cover 69 per cent of the cost, whereas the TIF and PGF usually covered 100 per cent (less corporate costs).
Deputy Mayor Ann Court said the way funding was applied was complicated and she could empathise with the frustrations residents on unsealed roads felt.
"Funding is not interchangeable and dust funding is purely to address the impact on human health," Court said.
"Tractions seals are a maintenance issue.
"In this case for Parapara Hill, this is a traction seal issue and therefore currently ranks as nineth on our traction seal list.
"Regrettably due to a funding shortfall, Waka Kotahi were unable to support any projects in this category.
"It is complicated, hence why elected members, bar one, workshopped this extensively."
Court explained if FNDC had bumped Parapara Rd up the list, Moerewa's Hautapu Rd would have fallen off.
She said she was aware of people's safety concerns, but safety concerns for many roads across the district had been raised.
"We have limited funds, so addressing every customer request is not something we can fund," Court said.
"We developed the roading matrix system, which advises us of the highest priorities and the roads in a ranked order."
Far North councillor Moko Tepania was among the councillors who did not second Radich's motion.
Tepania said he was genuinely apologetic to the Parapara residents who had travelled to Kaikohe but defended his reasons for not backing the motion.
"If I were to support this, I would have to support all communities to do the same," Tepania said.
"My own whānau on the West Coast in Mitimiti, Te Rangi, Te Karaka, Waihou and Panguru have to drive on unsealed roads daily too, including a 10km stretch through Runaruna which is the main thoroughfare to Kaitāia.
"This is used by all residents frequently including the school buses."