Residents of a Far North road have taken safety concerns into their own hands, erecting a sign warning people of the danger.
Residents of Masters Access Rd, which runs south from the Kaitaia Awaroa Rd east of Ahipara, have erected a sign warning that the first kilometre needs to be negotiated with care.
The sign states: "This hill is a health and safety risk which the (Far North District) council is ignoring until someone is injured or killed."
The Far North District Council conceded the residents concerns were "genuine" but there are 1650km of unsealed roads in the district which all need monitoring and attention.
The group of residents at Masters Access Rd said the problems were many. The hill was so steep that some drivers, especially of heavy vehicles, were unable to gain traction if they had to stop, the watertable was in desperate need of attention, the surface was at times corrugated, at times rutted by stormwater, and at times "like driving on marbles".
The major concern was that the descent towards the main road was at one point so narrow, and so close to a sheer drop-off, that residents feared a fatality was inevitable.
The road served 21 properties, including three farms and a winery, and carried significant traffic, including cattle trucks. Once beginning the descent, a heavy vehicle would not be able to stop, leaving a driver who met another vehicle that was not well to the left with two choices - to run over it or drive into the abyss on his left.
One resident had placed markers on the road to warn drivers of the drop-off, but they had been graded over the edge.
The narrowest point was the first corner on the descent, where a power pole stood almost on the road.
The residents said they had been complaining to the council for years, to no avail, hence the warning sign. They had been told that a council engineer would look at the road, probably in January, but the latest council roading matrix had placed it at #488 on the list.
"The council is turning this road into a track," one resident said.
"If someone is severely injured or killed, the council will be liable. It knows the condition this road is in. It knows it's dangerous, and won't be able to say it wasn't aware of that."
Acting general manager of infrastructure and assets Glenn Rainham said the Far North District Council needed to prioritise works with the many other needs in the district.
"I sympathise with concerns raised by Masters Access Road residents, but it is important to weigh their needs – genuine as they are – against the roading requirements of the whole district," he said.
"The Far North District Council maintains 810km of sealed roads and 1650km of unsealed roads. Only Southland and Clutha districts have more unsealed roads than the Far North.
Rainham said the council considered many funding criteria when allocating resources to maintain and upgrade our road network.
"These include the number of residents served, the number of serious accidents and whether the road links population centres.
"Masters Access Road is a 2.5km-long, no-exit road that serves a relatively small population. Our records show one minor accident in 2015."
He said it was not correct to suggest Masters Access Road was number 488 on a list.
"That is because there is no list. We do have a road dust matrix and are developing another matrix for road safety.
"What I can tell Masters Access Road residents is that the council is currently working on a business case for funding to improve conditions on the many steep, unsealed roads we have and will present that to the New Zealand Transport Agency soon.
"In the meantime, the council is conducting a major safety project on Kaitaia-Awaroa Road and improvements to the intersection with Masters Access Road are being considered."