Highway rebuild work halted as protesters barricade coastal road near Kaikōura

Occupation o Mangamaunu started on February 2.

SUPPLIED Occupation o Mangamaunu started on February 2.

Kaikoura residents concerned coastal roadworks could be running roughshod over sacred sites have put a temporary stop to construction by barricading a road.

The protesters, who broke away from community group Protect Our Unique Kaikoura Coast, have been occupying the Kiwi Rd intersection with State Highway 1 since February 2, over what they believe is the "desecration" of the coast.

The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR) was scheduled to commence "safety upgrades" at Kiwa Rd on February 3, but work never started.

Occupiers at Kiwa Rd in Kaikoura blocked the State Highway 1 intersection on Monday.

SUPPLIED Occupiers at Kiwa Rd in Kaikoura blocked the State Highway 1 intersection on Monday.

The occupation, called Occupation o Mangamaunu, intensified on Monday when protesters, after hearing works were set to start, used three vehicles to block access to Kiwa Rd.

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Protesters were redirecting residents through an alternative route on Station Rd until NCTIR blocked that entrance with concrete slabs on Monday night.

Sharon Rayner is leading the stand to protect sacred sites on Kiwa Rd.

DAN KERINS/SUPPLIED

Sharon Rayner is leading the stand to protect sacred sites on Kiwa Rd.

NZ Transport Agency manager Colin Knaggs said NCTIR crew had been diverted onto other work until a "clear way forward" could be established between runanga, Kaikoura District Council, occupiers and NCTIR.

Knaggs said they put the concrete blocks in place for "immediate public safety" as Station Rd crossed a "construction-managed" level rail crossing which was not approved for public use.

Police received two reports of protesters blocking the Kiwa Rd intersection on Monday. They were assisting with traffic management.

STUFF Kaikoura locals are ready for battle as they feel ongoing road works are spoiling the "raw beauty" of the once-rugged coastline.

Sharon Rayner, of Ngati Kuri, who was leading the stand to protect sacred sites, said they had received information that works were commencing on Monday. 

This prompted them to put the road block in place. They had no plans to reopen Kiwa Rd.

"It will remain closed to restore the whenua, urupa and tupuna as one and return tapu to the area."

Sharon Rayner says tupuna extends beyond the fenced urupa boundaries.

ALICE ANGELONI/STUFF

Sharon Rayner says tupuna extends beyond the fenced urupa boundaries.

Rayner said the decision to occupy was about their history and families.

Tupuna extended beyond the fenced cemetery boundaries, with ancestors buried where works were planned, she said. 

"They just want to bulldoze over the top of it and desecrate more of our sacred areas.

The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance planned to start "safety upgrades" at Kiwa Rd on February 3

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance planned to start "safety upgrades" at Kiwa Rd on February 3

"This occupation is also a stand to expose the continuous disrespect and disregard inflicted during this rebuild process."

Occupation came after three years of rebuild works, following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake which hit Kaikoura in November 2016. 

The Earthquake Emergency Legislation, which was enacted after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016, resulted in the community's "voice and rights" being taken away, Rayner said.

The occupation at the intersection of Kiwa Rd and State Highway 1 in Kaikoura.

ALICE ANGELONI/STUFF The occupation at the intersection of Kiwa Rd and State Highway 1 in Kaikoura.

Work to rebuild road and rail was expected to wrap up in late 2019, but had been pushed out to late 2020

In January, there was £80 million worth of construction to go, which would cover 76 "essential works" left for the rebuild. 

Occupiers wanted NCTIR to reopen an alternative route through Station Rd. 

Kaikoura residents, from left, Sharon Rayner, Hannah Timms and Miriama Teahipuhia Allen have camped out near Kiwa Rd to protest new roadworks.

ALICE ANGELONI/STUFF

Kaikoura residents, from left, Sharon Rayner, Hannah Timms and Miriama Teahipuhia Allen have camped out near Kiwa Rd to protest new roadworks.

Since Station Rd had been blocked, they were letting residents through at Kiwa Rd but redirecting tourists.

Surfers were parking on the road and walking down to the breaks. 

Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle said he could not "pass judgement" as it was not a council-led process.

"While I understand this is a sensitive situation for all involved, I remain positive that all parties will be able to find a way forward," he said.

"I have been in touch with those involved and council is here to support our partners and community members as needed."

The safety upgrades planned for Kiwa Rd included the state highway area being widened by one lane to allow for a new right turning bay for northbound traffic.

The intersection would be slightly lifted and widened to create space for the turning bay and to allow for a safer left-hand turn into Kiwa Rd from the north. 

The existing wooden railing on the seaward side of the bend would remain.

On the inland side of the road edge, new concrete kerb and channel would be laid.

Protester Tim Hawkins said they were "holding fast".

They were calling for consultation before planning and decision-making, not "dictation during construction".

"That's how democracy works," he said.

Te Runanga o Kaikoura was approached for comment. 

The Marlborough Express

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