It is costing $15,000 a month to keep rural Denlair Rd open to cars during a logging operation, Whanganui District Council senior roading engineer Brent Holmes says.
The road near Fordell, which was not designed for heavy traffic, is so rough that truck drivers have complained, and the dust is annoying residents. However, a partner in the forestry there says its partnership has followed all the rules.
The situation has reignited debate over who pays for logging damage to rural roads.
Holmes told the council's February infrastructure committee meeting the cost would be $70,000 a month if he tried to keep the small rural road near Fordell completely sealed. Instead he is maintaining it as a metal road until logging is finished.
For the past 30 years the small no-exit road has carried mainly cars and quad bikes, and it has virtually no pavement under it.
"It's a layer of seal on 100mm of metal," Holmes said.
Log prices were high and the road was now bearing the weight of 62-tonne logging trucks, he said.
He has given away the idea of keeping the seal intact. The sealed road has temporarily become an unsealed road, with grading and a running course of metal.
"We try and hold the road together as well as we can while harvesting is taking place, and then put it back together when the logging trucks are out of there."
The downside had been the effect on residents, he said. The issues were dust and having to slow down.
Nicki and Clive Higgie live on the road and are minority owners in Fordell Forest, which was logged on and off last year. Logging would continue for most of 2021, they said.
The state of the road is as difficult for them as it is for the eight other households and three farms.
The Higgies are getting adverse comments about damage to the road but Nicki Higgie, a former Whanganui district councillor, said they had done everything right. They had used the road minimally for 25 years, while paying about $30,000 a year in rates.
Their logging company New Zealand Forestry, trucking company McCarthy Transport and road maintenance contractor Downer had all done a professional job, Higgie said.
They got resource consent to plant the forest, and the Government had encouraged tree planting and the use of heavier trucks on New Zealand roads.
When she was a councillor and the council talked about imposing higher rates on forest owners to offset logging damage, Higgie declared a conflict of interest and stepped aside. Those extra levies never happened, she said.
"It would be immoral for council to start trying to back charge for things that went ahead perfectly legally.
"Nobody is to blame. It's just a fact of life in rural New Zealand."
McCarthy Transport is trucking the logs, and the company pays for road maintenance through its road user charges.
Its drivers have "complained a wee bit" about the rough state of Denlair Rd, transport manager Mike McCarthy said.
"There's quite a steep hill. They have got stuck on the hill due to loss of traction and how bumpy it is."
The argument about who should pay for forestry harvest damage to rural roads was raging in Wairoa, forestry investment advisor Roger Dickie said.
The maximum weight of a logging truck was 50 tonnes, he said, and forest owners were prepared to pay their fair share of rates. But people should remember that they paid rates for close to 30 years without using the roads much.
Any money collected in a forestry rate must be kept in reserve until it was needed at forest harvest time. If it was spent on other things, it was not available when harvest started, he said.
In Wairoa, some have argued that forest owners should pay more rates, because they contribute less to community wellbeing. But that was completely untrue, Dickie said.
He cited a report commissioned by the Ministry of Primary Industries and written by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It found that forestry provides more financial and community value per hectare than hill-country sheep and beef farming.
"PwC worked out that the value-add by land use from forestry is nearly three times higher than from sheep and beef farming. The forestry labour force is twice as large," the report said.