Whanganui District Council is looking at ways to limit the damage from forestry operations on rural roads. Lobbying to Govt for funding considered as logging trucks leave big repair bill

We have to do something that reflects the damage that's occurring on some of our rural roads.Councillor Alan Taylor (above)Roading damage looks set to be a long-term agenda item for Whanganui District Council as forestry harvesting ramps up around the region.

The item is back in front of the council's infrastructure committee meeting today as council engineers report logging trucks "trashing" not just road surfaces but drains and some bridge abutments.

Councillors had acknowledged the problem when they signed off the 2018-28 long-term plan last year, deciding then to implement a targeted rate for exotic forestry properties to collect $135,000 annually. The council also indicated it would work with the forestry industry to limit damage to roads as well as push central government for additional funding.

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Councillor Alan Taylor, who chairs the infrastructure committee, told the Chronicle that for council it was about damage recovery and while it was an issue that didn't sit well with forest owners, it was something that had to be faced up to.

"We [council] have to do something that reflects the damage that's occurring on some of our rural roads," Taylor said.'

He said a key was that dialogue was ongoing with the industry players "and that's vitally important".

He favoured intensified lobbying to central government for some sort of funding assistance "and that's why talking with those involved in the industry was vital".

Council staff said more heavy vehicles were putting huge stress on rural roads. They estimate that one fully-laden truck would create the same sort of pavement "fatigue" as 1000 cars using the same route.

"We have recently noticed the greatest impact occurring on our unsealed roads, where over-dimension vehicles — not suitable for the topography — are thrashing all the road-side space, including open drains, fences, culverts and bridge abutments," staff said.

Another issue has been the amount of tree slash left behind once the logs have been trimmed. The worst outcome from this practice was seen in the Gisborne area in June when heavy rains shunted thousands of tonnes of forestry waste down valleys, wrecking property.

The Whanganui council has spent $100,000 clearing tree slash material which slipped on to one rural road. Council officers said as well as a cost to ratepayers, it was lucky no motorists were trapped or injured by the slips.

And just before Christmas, Erni's Bridge, on Kauarapaoa Rd, had a 24-tonne weight restriction imposed because of stress to some of the bridge trusses.

After inspection, the bridge was restored to its 44-tonne limit, but officers say it will need renewal very soon to future-proof it for the many years of harvest in the area as trucks take the logs to the Aramoho rail head.

Funding options are being investigated with a view to renewing Erni's Bridge in the 2019-20 financial year. The new bridge would be designed to handle 72-tonne loads.