Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua, Te Urewera Board and the Wairoa and Whakatāne District Councils are working collaboratively to foster world class innovation through investigating and developing sustainable options for improving Te Urewera Road.
The former SH38 is recognised as one of the country’s most scenic routes and provides the only road access to Lake Waikaremoana and the remote communities within Te Urewera. Driving the road currently requires motorists to negotiate 64 kilometres of steep and winding gravel.
Ngāi Tūhoe sees the improvement of Te Urewera Road as a key requirement to create a vibrant, prosperous and living Te Urewera community and economy. Tamati Kruger, the Chairman the Te Uru Taumatua Board and the Te Urewera Board, says Te Urewera is a respected place of outstanding value and worth. As tangata whenua, Tūhoe are committed to ensuring that infrastructure is developed in a way that supports the vision for Te Urewera and provides opportunities for its communities.
Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne says his Council wholeheartedly supports the proposed upgrading of the road. “We believe that further investment in Te Urewera Road will help deliver security of access, growth and sustainable development for Te Urewera communities and contribute to the realisation of Tuhoe aspirations.”
Maintenance of the road is currently 100-percent funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), reflecting the route’s ‘Special Purpose Road’ status, but the agency is proposing to transfer a share of the funding responsibility to the district councils. If implemented, that would see it treated like any other local road, with maintenance funded partly by ratepayers and partly by NZTA subsidy.
“Both councils recognise that Te Urewera Road’s susceptibility to storm damage could mean that our ratepayers are exposed to very significant repair costs,” Mayor Bonne says. “Without improvement, the cost of repairs after a significant storm event could potentially be prohibitive for smaller councils like ours, to the point where access to the area could be compromised. That’s obviously a situation that Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua, the councils and NZTA want to avoid.
“The improvements envisioned would reduce the likelihood of major road damage from future severe rainfall events, and therefore reduce the financial risk for the councils and their ratepayers.”
A report proposing a collaborative approach for investment in Te Urewera Road, in conjunction with NZTA, was adopted by the Whakatāne District Council’s Projects and Services Committee on 3 September. All parties are self-resourced and highly committed to working together on this initiative.