Farmer fears plans for rural road will return area to ‘Middle Ages’

A Taranaki farmer says plans to replace a 6 kilometre stretch of sealed road at Tarata with gravel will put school children at risk.

Jared Coogan made an oral submission at the New Plymouth District Council’s draft long-term plan hearings today.

The sheep and beef farmer said the council’s solution for damage being done to Tarata Road by logging trucks was unsafe.

“Of major concern to our residents is the safety of our tamariki in the school bus, which currently does not go up any side roads from Tarata Road where there is gravel.

“Would the councillors want an accident between a school bus and a fully-loaded 50-tonne juggernaut, which is a logging truck, that loses control on a bend at the wrong time when the school bus loaded with our kids is coming the other way?”

Coogan, who was speaking to a Federated Farmers written submission, also criticised the lack of transparency over the proposal for all rural roads affected by logging which he said was “concerning” and not what he would call “community consultation”.

“To hide on page 63 of the council services document in two sentences is not what I would call community consultation and I quote this: ‘roads associated with forestry movements have not received any investment’ – so admitted – ‘resulting in the rapid deterioration of these roads. We are changing these roads from sealed to unsealed which will reduce on-going costs to forestry by a third’.”

Coogan said no supporting figures were given and no cost-benefit analysis provided.

“This does not align with the council’s goal of maintaining current levels of service or that public safety is paramount.”

He said the 70 families of Tarata – many of whom worked in the one of the most productive sectors in the district – deserved better.

Coogan asked council if it wanted to return Tarata to the Middle Ages.

“Councillors could you please let me know if any of you are card carrying members of the McGillicuddy Serious Party and are considering one of their most famous policies – A Great Leap Backwards – and advocating for a move back to the Middle Ages.”

He said the correct path was to design a fit for purpose road to accommodate the 50-odd logging truck movements in a day on Tarata Road and those of stock trucks and service vehicles.

Councillor Marie Pearce asked Coogan if he was aware that council was trying to reduce the number of logging trucks on the road and weight limits on the area’s bridges.

While Mayor Neil Holdom pointed out that when the roads were designed the weight limits for trucks were far lower and attempted to steer Coogan back to the proposed rating schedule which Federated Farmers supported.

Raelene Castle

Meanwhile, a council proposal to build a $91 million sports hub in New Plymouth got some heavyweight support at long-term plan hearings.

Sport New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle made an in-person submission backing the project.

She told council that facilities such as the proposed Tūparikino Active Community Hub were vital to wellbeing and resulted in healthier, happier young people.

“There is no doubt that where you’ve got young people what they are looking for is connection. They are looking for a place where they can engage in physical activity with their mates. They are looking for a sense of community.

“And they are also looking for – without really realising or understanding it – that social connection that also helps them not only from a well-being aspect but also their own mental health outcomes.”

The former Rugby Australia and New Zealand Netball chief executive said the New Plymouth proposal was a unique greenfields opportunity within 2 kilometres of four schools which should be grabbed with both hands.

Castle was asked if Sport NZ could provide any funding towards the project, to which she replied that was not the organisation’s role.

The district council is proposing to spend an initial $35 million over four years to build a multi-use, four-court indoor stadium leveraging off the existing TSB Stadium and (if funding allowed) multi-use artificial turf and grass sports fields at the adjacent New Plymouth Raceway.

Well-known Taranaki boxing coach Jacob Rapira also made a submission on the sports hub proposal.

He told councillors it was not possible to hold large events in New Plymouth because of a lack of venues and that meant his athletes and those from sports such as basketball and volleyball had to travel away for national championships.

“It have to got to Tauranga in a couple of weeks. It’s expensive to go there. Very expensive. Having a sports hub here means for a lot of families just once a year they’d get to save some money by having those types of sports and events here.”

Rapira said he was blown away by facilities at 2015 national championships in Southland.

“While we were there, at the exact same time and the exact same spot, there was the national schools basketball championship happening in one room and we were in another room and right next to it, in the velodrome, was the national cycling championships.

“In terms of income for the local economy it must be huge. Accommodation, the cafes, supermarkets. Even their movie theatre was selling out.”

LTP hearings continue into next week.

The council will then meet to deliberate on the long-term later this month before adopting a plan in June which will go into affect in July.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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