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Blackjack Road is in trouble

Updated: Aug 16

By Pauline Stewart

This road is the main turnoff to Kūaotunu Village. It leads to Otama, then Opito Bay and at the end, there is Matapaua. The road you enter on is the same road you go out on. There is only one way access. When you drive a car on Blacjack Road , it is like running the gauntlet. In parts, one holds their breath to help get past what seems precarious stretches. One thousand people live on Blackjack Road, or in the communities of Otama and Opito Bay and Matapaua. There are farmers, artists, bach owners, builders and retirees, who live on this road. They share the road with logging trucks, tourists and countless trades people as there is a suburban development being built in Opito Bay to extend the number of residents and tourist opportunities as well as some large pine forests. It is an extremely scenic road - takes your breath away. In the main part, Blackjack Road is sealed except for a metal section which was not sealed when Blackjack Road got its sealed upgrade. Since the storms of 2022/2023, the unsealed section and now several other sections are extremely vulnerable to caving in. There has been an area repaired on the rise of one of the more dangerous hills, but this is just bitumen poured on top of cracks that have not been properly addressed and the bitumen bulges and moves. The edge of the road in part is fallen away and for some sections, there is a steep hillside (cliff like) on your left as one drives towards the coast, the edge of which is knifed by road-edge giving way. It is now logging season and the retrieval of pine logs has begun. The road is not able to cope in its current state. Recently, one resident of Blackjack Road, who has spoken to The Informer, felt he had reached the ‘end of his tether’. He had visited the TCDC Council offices and had asked to speak to those who could address his concerns. This person is not so good at writing letters , so when asked to email or write it all down, it becomes very discouraging. This person is an excellent builder and neighbour to people who have flat tyres and lose their hubcaps whilst driving on Blackjack Road. He collected so many hubcaps, and with no response to attempts at communicating to TCDC what he sees as a dangerous and neglected road, he deposited all of these hubcaps on the deck of the TCDC offices in Monk Street one evening last week. The Informer heard and investigated. This resident feels desperate for the future of the road. He is quick to add that the work of sealing the 900 metre section was long overdue before the recent cyclones and heavy rain. Sealing that would have helped the situation but only somewhat. Something must be done for safety and there needs to be an initiative to engage local residents to help construct a feasible plan into which they have input (his words). Now that something is a huge job and I doubt that all of the rates of the 1,000 residents could pay for what is needed urgently on Blackjack Road. One does not have to do too many sums to work this out. TCDC is spending all of its resources on its active roading sites and all attention by the central Government is on the bridge that will connect two halves of State Highway 25A. There is a raising of the curtain, come March 2024, if all goes to plan. When the curtain is raised, hopefully there will be a flood of people visiting and holidaying and hopefully considering living on the Peninsula. So much eff ort is going toward a magnificent raising of the curtain to enjoy the Coromandel show. Otama, Opito Bay and Matapaua are extremely beautiful destinations, and the fragile and dangerous nature of this road is repeated elsewhere on the Peninsula for other beautiful destinations. Raising the curtain will reveal that so many more roads have not had the resources for significant repairs and advancement of their bad condition - a cost to the ratepayer beyond their ability to pay. Never mind asking why we haven’t done more in the last 50 years. One small step could be to share the situation of Blackjack Road and look for input from the locals. The Informer is reporting what was said in conversation with a ratepayer who has invested his years and livelihood into the Mercury Bay Area and who would like to continue to do so. He needs someone to listen.

"As you would have learned at our Public Meeting, we stopped logging in our Main Forest last year in September and we are unlikely to start up again before early in 2024. We do not want our company getting wrongly associated with what’s happening in Opito."

Quote from Norbert Klein, Summit Forest New Zealand Limited, 16th August 2023.

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