Thursday, 25 April 2024 08:55

Editorial: Wake up Wellington

Written by  Peter Burke
Fourteen months after Cyclone Gabrielle, many farmers have limited access to their farms. Fourteen months after Cyclone Gabrielle, many farmers have limited access to their farms.

OPINION: The distress that the politicians and bureaucrats are causing to the people of Wairoa and the wider Tairāwhiti is unforgivable.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little has every reason to be angry at the seeming lack of priority, commitment and energy that the Government and its agencies are putting into sorting out this mess: That is, State Highway 2 south of Wairoa. As one who drove the road last year and again just a few weeks ago, it is hard to see much progress, apart from more traffic cones. No doubt a permanent fix to SH2 is a challenge, but the perception is that the problems of the East Coast are not a high priority to those capable of doing something about the problem.

Soon after Cyclone Gabrielle hit, politicians were falling over each other coming to the East Coast for photo opportunities and giving ritual sympathy speeches and promises. Likewise, the media cashed in on the disaster. But the reality is the problems in Tairāwhiti go beyond a perfunctory visit and sound bite on TV or radio. Fourteen months on, people in Wairoa township and in the hills behind the town are still suffering. Many are still living in temporary houses, farmland is still slipping, making it impossible to permanently replace fences. Many farmers have limited access to their farms, all at a time when the primary sector is amid a crisis. The cost to the people of Wairoa and its hinterland, both in social and economic terms, in what amounts to partial isolation, is taking its toll on the mental health of people.

The fact is that the economy of the whole East Coast is in dire straits because of poor infrastructure, and that is the fault of successive governments. But as one famous Wellington retailer used to say, “It’s the putting right that counts”. So what’s the problem and why not now? Or how many more tonnes of paper for reports will be required by the bureaucrats and politicians to get beyond snail’s pace?

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