THE closed-off section of Foreshore Rd at Colac Bay will not be reopened any time soon, the Southland District Council (SDC) has decided – but locals disagreeing with the decision may now take legal action.
The decision on the road, a section of which has been closed since 2015 because of erosion from the sea, was made at the council’s meeting last Thursday.
Colac Bay residents who opposed the road remaining closed attended the meeting and asked the council during the public forum section to consider other options for keeping the road open.
These included the community providing funding and rocks for sea defences, or moving the road further back from the eroding coastline.
After the public forum, the council debated the issue for about half and hour before voting to accept the recommended option (option two) from four possible options. Option two was to reinstate rock defences along the closed portion of the road to protect it from the sea (at an estimated cost of $200,000).
Other options considered were to do nothing, to repair the road keeping its original line (at an estimated cost of $825,000), or to move the road back from the sea (at an estimated cost of $700,000).
Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the council had delayed making a decision on the issue at its previous meeting in order to visit the town, meet with locals and hear their concerns and ideas about the road.
Since council staff had visited Colac Bay earlier this month, Mr Tong had visited twice more, he said. As he saw it, option two had to happen, he said.
SDC group manager for assets and services Ian Marshall said there had been discussions with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the construction work required for option two would qualify for a 52% agency subsidy.
Cr Gavin Macpherson asked if further engineering work could be carried out to perhaps reopen the road in the future, assuming a motion to accept option two was passed.
Mr Marshall said this was possible.
Mr Tong said the number one priority at this stage was to upgrade protection for what was left of the road to stop it falling away.
The council voted to pass the motion after deciding to change the wording in the recommended option so it did not include the sentence: “This option results in the permanent closure of the road”.
The reworded option for the road would go before the council’s assets and services committee before a final decision was made.
After the meeting, Colac Bay resident Julie Guise, who spoke at the public forum, said members of the community had taken legal advice and would be looking at what further action they could take to get the road reopened.