WHEN I first discovered North Otago, in a journalistic sense, about 10 years ago, one of the great delights was the drive from Waianakarua along the coast into Oamaru.
I thought that it was one of the great, unheralded and undiscovered ways to arrive into any town in New Zealand.
It was obvious there had been some erosion and relocation of the road a few metres inland, but the views were breathtaking and I was amazed to see fields of brussels sprouts within easy breathing distance of the salt spray from the South Pacific on a stormy day.
The entire drive was wonderful, but it was the drive from Kakanui into town that made it particularly special.
At that time, I wondered why there weren't those brown Tourist Trail signs at either Waianakarua (or Maheno for an abbreviated drive) directing holidaymakers, assorted tourists and campervan drivers off SH1 and into Oamaru from the South.
I thought that it was easier from the South as finding your way from the centre of Oamaru onto the coast road is a bit of a mystery as there are no directions.
When I moved south from Auckland three years ago to become an Oamaruvian I was dismayed to find that the local market garden and hothouse tomato industries had been decimated, no longer were brussels sprouts growing in salt spray, only grass. But the greatest disappointment was that a big chunk of the coast road had been closed and a newly formed detour was in place, inland across what was previously farmland.
Stopping the car and exploring showed clearly why this was done, as the old bypassed piece of the coast road was made impassable due to huge, jagged-edged holes caused by erosion.
There's nothing new about this, it's been going on for thousands of years and if we wait long enough the erosion will eventually reach inland as far as SH1 - but that's something that no readers of this paper will ever have to worry about.
Then I learned that the council is tired of patching up the road and had allocated an annual budget to repair it that was only marginally larger than their annual allocation for morning teas! It was a pitifully small amount and it was clear that the writing was on the wall for the coast road.
Things have come to a bit of a head in the past few weeks with another slump caused by erosion and former mayor Alan McLay getting into the act with a suggestion for a crib wall to halt the ravages of the South Pacific and restore the road to two lanes again by some more relocation.
I don't know if many Oamaruvians understand just how special this drive from Oamaru, along the coast through Kakanui to Waianakarua is - at least Alan McLay does. It is very, very special indeed and I don't think the region can afford to sit back and do nothing.
It would be extraordinarily short-sighted to continue to budget peanuts for the proper maintenance of this road and then, in 20 or 30 years time, have people then saying how short-sighted we were.
The coast road is a gem and it must be preserved.
It will cost money, but to quote someone far more eloquent than I, where there is a will there is a way.
Since my arrival here as a resident, I frequently go for a drive to Kakanui for coffee, or maybe on to Maheno for a burger and chips meal and then back home again - using the coast road both ways. It's an absolute unspoiled delight to be able to drive along such a spectacular coastline and to see, golden beaches, crashing surf, craggy bluffs and colonies of shags. I tell you it beats SH1 through Alma a million times over. But then, I have always enjoyed the journey as much as the destination.
The coast road must not only be saved, but also promoted as another of the very special things that make North Otago so special and different. It is world class.
Now based in Oamaru Allan Dick is a well-known broadcaster, publisher and the editor of the magazine NZTODAY.