Work to reopen Haven St, the main road into the seaside town of Moeraki, is under way.
Drainage clearing work below the road started on Thursday and depending on the weather, was expected to take two days to complete.
While the project is taking place under the watchful eye of the Waitaki District Council, Moeraki resident Bruce Wheeler has taken on the role of project manager.
An engineer from the council’s roading department is responsible for the project’s design plan and health and safety plan.
The Moeraki community has provided financial support as well as donations of equipment for the project, with the aim of reopening the road. It has been closed for close to 18 months as the result of a major slip.
An alternative route was put in place along Tenby St. However, that decision angered many locals who have concerns about safety and the effect the closure of the main route into Moeraki has had on businesses in the town.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said land subsidence issues at Moeraki were a major sore point for him during the 2013 local body election campaign and is pleased work has commenced to try to solve the problem.
However, the outcome of the drainage work will have a huge bearing on any future work.
“It seemed to be a case of doing more of the same but it wasn’t until we [council] got in we realised how much worse it had become. We realised it wasn’t going to be straightforward.
“The nature of the underground structure is that deep down you’ve got quite a lubricated layer of material that sits between two hard layers. The idea is to dig down and get the drainage better than ever before. If it works we can go on and build the road and it will be better than before. There is a risk it won’t be successful and we are fearful of that. We have explained the risks and people are aware of the situation.”
The council’s original plans were to establish a single-lane shingle road with minimal drainage, at an estimated cost of $100,000.
However, thanks to the combined efforts of Moeraki residents, the budget for the project is likely to be closer to the $200,000 mark, which allows more significant work.
Questions have been raised as to why contributions from the community were required.
Mr Kircher said it was necessary because the council was unable to secure a New Zealand Transport Agency grant for the project, which would have covered 55% of the costs, and it was not good financial management to fully fund the work through rates money alone.
“We put the challenge out to the Moeraki community and they have come through very well.”