A resolution for a Wairoa bridge with no owner is nearing, with a report commissioned by Wairoa District Council undergoing peer review.
The Patangata Bridge in Whakakī was built about 50 years ago to give a digger access to the beach. The digger was needed to clear a channel to the sea from Whakakī Lake, which floods several times a year when the outflow is blocked by sand.
But while floodwaters could exit, too much sea water entered, so a different spot was found for the flood-relief earthworks, and although the bridge was no longer needed, it remained for local community use.
When local councils were later amalgamated the Patangata Bridge was left off the asset register of the new Wairoa District Council.
In August this year the council decided to close the deteriorating bridge to cars citing safety concerns.
A new bridge is needed but Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said there's a problem - the council does not officially own the old bridge, so can't replace it.
He said while the final approach to the bridge was across council land, the land was not listed as an official road. A report on the matter has been completed but is still subject to peer review.
The closure was a blow to Whakakī Marae. The bridge is the only land access to an important part of its Turangawaewae.
"It houses our three graveyards," Richard Brooking, chair of the Whakakī Lake Trust said.
"We need to get across this bridge to get to our urupā to bury our dead and to look after the graves.
"We also have an economic imperative because it is also a base for running farming operations and we've got some big plans.
"We've also got an environmental imperative - the Fresh Water Improvement Fund project, which we are currently starting to implement.
"That project will require the movement of some heavy machinery across the bridge to help develop and manage the proposed recirculating wetlands."
So far two burials have been affected by the Council's vehicle ban on the bridge.
"That's a long way to carry a coffin but it is also a long way for our pakeke - elders - and our community to walk.
"We do have the use of quads for those who are not able to walk.
"That's an inconvenience at this stage.
"What we want is a robust solution."
Little said he's hopeful the report will prove council ownership, which would then attract a central government subsidy to restore access.
He said he regrets it is taking so long to determine ownership.
"We are not trying to shirk our responsibility. We are trying to work out how the hell this could happen and make sure all our ducks are aligned so we can go to LTSA (Land Transport Safety Authority)."