December 8, 2023

Hawke’s Bay communities cut off by road may have to wait weeks or even months to be reconnected

"Huge amount of damage in this area."

It will take weeks, or even months, for some cut-off communities to get Bailey bridges that would reconnect them by road to the rest of Hawke’s Bay.

Newshub visited three communities that have come up with their own access in the meantime: Rissington, Whanawhana and Wakarara.

But while one local council is commending their Kiwi ingenuity, it also has serious safety concerns.

The latest school bus in Rissington is a muddy side-by-side.

Until now, students have been using boats to get across the Mangaone River.

Hastings District Council’s Marius Van Niekerk told Newshub the “water [is] rough” and is causing a “real concern” for safety. 

“We’re going flat out to try to restore access.”

A temporary bridge has just been installed, though it can’t take much-needed stock trucks or fuel tankers. Instead, light four-wheel drives and locals are happy. 

“It’s good having access. It’s been hard, all my work is out of the region,” Patoka resident Ryan Clark told Newshub. 

The problem with the temporary bridge is it can only be used in good weather. The slightest amount of rain puts it at risk of being completely washed away, which is why the council has closed it several times already.

“More rain coming [at] the end of week, which will wash out the causeway here again,” said Rissington farmer Daniel Absolom. 

But a permanent solution is on the horizon with the construction of a Bailey bridge well underway.

“All going well open by the end of March,” said Marius Van Niekerk from Hastings District Council.

Further south in Central Hawke’s Bay, at least half of its 1200 kilometres of roads have been impacted by the cyclone.

One bridge on Wakarara Rd is one of 69 in the area that needs to be repaired or replaced. 

“A huge amount of damage in this area,” said Wakarara resident Callum Salvin. 

There are three washouts on Wakarara Rd road alone, which has cut off 30 people. 

They can only get out on quad bikes over what’s being described as a “goat track”.

“It’s hard to get food supplies in and out if the weather goes bad, then tracks are dangerous for them to work on,” Slavin said. 

Access has also been severed for 40 residents on Whanawhana Rd.

A little dinghy has been playing a big role since Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

“It’s kind of been a bit of a roller coaster since then… of access,” Whanawhana farmer Pip Beamish said. 

Locals Bill and Penny Beamish, plus contractors Warren and Shane also built a log bridge, but that washed away when it rained. Then they built a culvert with 150 trucks of metal, but after just 36 hours that washed away too.

The latest solution is to build a ford to get through the river. 

“If we get any more rain then this will wash out and we’ll back to being cut off.”

And back to building bridges. Beamish said her neighbours and local contractors have been working around the clock.

“It’s been huge valley-wide community effort, which has been amazing,” Beamish told Newshub. 

That community effort is key to creating access in Hawke’s Bay until more permanent solutions are found.

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