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Engineering issues dominate community board meeting

May 13th, 2010
by David Armstrong

Engineering issues dominated the May public meeting of the Motueka Community Board on Tuesday this week, with road works and transport plans replacing the usual discussions about water reticulation and river control. And the most startling news was that the Motueka River bridge may well not be replaced for another 50 years at least.

TDC Transportation manager Gary Clark, whose portfolio ranges across many current local engineering issues, spoke to several requests for information and explanation, while the Mayor, Richard Kempthorne, commented on moves regarding freedom camping.

Freedom camping:

Richard said that South Island councils affected by problems with irresponsible freedom campers had decided to urge central government to address the issue directly. He asked that while this work was being pushed, community boards should hold fire on related requests for facilities such as new toilets until government said what would be done.

Councils are asking for a standard set of rules, with local variations if necessary. The Gisborne experience is being used as a potential model - in that region a strict rule is in place allowing self-contained campervans (that is, with own toilets and washing) to park anywhere, whereas vans without these basic facilities must park in camping grounds.

Richard said there was as yet no time-line on this initiative, but TDC will not fund any local projects related to freedom camping until the outcome of the national initiative has worked out.

The TDC Engineering "Ranking Matrix":

Tara Forde again questioned Gary Clark about this new entity, which Gary is introducing as a means of comparing engineering projects - roads, footpaths, safety features etc - to ensure the highest priority work is achieved first.

Gary explained that the matrix was in fact a very extensive spreadsheet with line items including the costs and various weighting factors such as speed, safety, traffic volumes. The spreadsheet shows how costs and budgets overall are affected by any change in priority for any particular project. The software is not yet ready to demonstrate, but Gary hoped to present it to the June meeting.

He said that there are about 300 engineering projects listed, and a budget of $100,000 for new footpaths and $50,000 for footpath repairs, for example, so care had to be taken to get the best results for the money. Richard Kempthorne said council were very happy with the matrix, as it is giving "a rational basis for decision making that hasn't been available before".

Discretionary Grants to Maori Wardens and Youth Bus:

The community board approved a $200 grant to the Maori Wardens to help provide a sign outside Decks Reserve to show where the Wardens are located within the Community House, specially on Friday and Saturday nights.

The request from Jodi Maru of the Recreation Centre for $500 to keep the Youth Bus running for another five months prompted discussion as to the effectiveness of the service, which takes youths home safely from the Rec Centre and the Baptist and Church of Christ buildings around 9 to 10pm on Fridays.

Usage has dropped off recently, down to about 8 per month, although others not counted have been found using the service but not paying the $2 requested. All parties, including the police, think the service is worth it even if it can save just one young person from getting into serious trouble, so the request was granted. However, Paul Hawkes will help look into ways to get more use for the service, and to ensure users do pay.

Motueka's traffic and changes in High Street:

The long-awaited Motueka Transport Study was released this week, and a summary of its content and implications can be read here. Tuesday's community board meeting spent some time discussing related issues of current and future roadworks under way in High Street. Gary Clark fielded what clearly are divided opinions on this isse (which have been covered extensively on this website here and later here.

Gary called the Motueka Transportation Plan in fact a "High Street Optimisation Project", reinforcing the fact it is driven and controlled by NZ Transportation Agency (NZTA), and that Council can do little to influence its timing or outcomes.

"How stupid is it to bypass town [via Queen Vistoria Street] only to come back to High Street near the river. A new bridge is needed at the same time," he said.

He then caused some eyebrows to raise and some mouths to drop by saying that NZTA have a 50-year timescale for the bridge, that there may be no intention of building a new one or upgrading the existing one for at least 50 years.

In the meantime, the focus is on what the council can influence - the streetscape and use of High Street. Gary said that the plan now - and there is no set timeline but planning work is under way - is to extend the "soft engineering" of High Street south from Tudor Street to the Whakarewa Street / Woodlands Avenue corner, where a roundabout will be installed.

The roundabout will not only slow traffic down but also - with some trees planted along that 200-metre stretch of High Street near New World and The Warehouse - make it the gateway of the central business precinct. Plans are also afoot for relocation of one or more pedestrian crossings and renewal of some of the golden elm trees, though details were not forthcoming.

Motueka River stopbanks:

Board chairman David Ogilvie spoke of a satisfying consensus he was seeing from the consultants' consultation meetings about the type of work that the community were prepared to fund to improve the reliability and safety of the stopbanks. This was to retain the existing stopbanks (and accepting the risk of problems from a 1-in-100 year flood) and for a set of incremental improvements to ease pressure from the banks. "People don't want a Rolls Royce solution," he said.

He also praised the work and report from the project manager of consultants, MWH New Zealand Ltd, which included a 24-page summary or register of every risk or potential problem raised by people at the meetings and privately.

Gary Clark said that engineering modeling showed that a 1-in-100 year flood will probably not over-top the banks, assuming no significant wave action from accompanying storm winds and some storm surge from the sea. However, actual structural analysis, from drilling into the banks at many sites, showed the banks are permeable (water runs through it), raising questins about its ability to withstand pressure when the river is running full.

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