There was a time when Otaua Valley farmer Richard Dampney thought the Far North District Council was aware of the valley's roading issues, and was doing something about them, but that was a long time ago.
Now, he said, the valley, near Taheke, appeared to have been forgotten altogether, while more heavy traffic than the road was designed to carry was creating an ever-worsening dust problem and bridges were unable to support the loads required.
Mr Dampney, who has been farming there for 15 years, said the Otaua Valley had approximately 100 dwellings, occupied by 130 families, including approximately 100 children.
There were two marae, with two more further up the valley, a church, a kohanga reo, a sports centre at the old school, seven dairy farms carrying more than 2500 cows that needed three milk tankers daily.
There were 1000 head of dry stock, two large forestry blocks where three logging crews were currently working, up to 50 logging trucks and four metal trucks a day. Four school buses/vans used the road twice every day.
Despite all that activity, the people living in the valley felt that they had been forgotten "once again," he said, after the district council announced plans for $4 million of sealing on six rural roads (Seal on its way for some, Northland Age September 17).
Approximately 2.5km of Punakitere Loop Road had been sealed in 2010, after a deputation to the council, leaving 27.5km of pot-holed, dusty or muddy and slippery road still unsealed.
The council had promised to seal the rest, and half of Otaua Rd, as a priority over the following two years.
"Nine years later we're still waiting," Mr Dampney said. "Then about 18 months ago the council placed a weight restriction on the first bridge on Otaua Road, saying it wasn't safe for heavy vehicles because of a flooding risk."
He and another local resident said they had never seen water go over the bridge, although Mr Dampney understood that that had happened once in the last 30 years.
"It seems like a perfectly good bridge to me, but someone turned up one day, looked under it and decided something was wrong with it, then put up the weight restriction sign," he added.
The second bridge that crossed the Otaua River 8km further along the road, which could flood at least 10 times a year, had no weight restriction.
It was too narrow for a lot of contractors and farm equipment. Given that one bridge had a weight restriction and the other was unusable, farmers and contractors were now taking heavy machinery over private property.
"If they didn't do that there would be no way through," he said.