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Clarence River residents fear being trapped by weather-dependent access route

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Clarence residents are gearing up for an isolated winter and the possibility of being trapped if heavy rain floods the only road out.

Shirley Millard has enough venison in the freezer to last a few months, just in case.

She has stocked up on food in the likelihood she will be trapped in the valley at some point over winter.

“We’ve been trying to get out once a week for supplies, like fuel supplies and food supplies, and when we can’t get out, we can’t get those.”

The Wharekiri and Miller streams crossed over the road, flooding it when weather was bad and making it too hazardous to drive.

The weather-dependent road became a main route into the valley after the November 14 earthquake destroyed bridge access on the old entry way.

Clarence builder Gavin Clarke said he would have to leave his home if a new bridge was not built, as the regularly flooded access was unreliable for work.

Residents on the isolated side of the valley were not asking for much, Clarke said.

“We’re not asking for anything else except good, all-weather access.”

The streams crossing through the new route required some residents to buy four-wheel-drive vehicles, however the water took a toll on vehicle brakes, which Clarke said were starting to seize up on his truck.

Resident Lesa B’do said locals had taken it upon themselves to find other ways to leave the valley if necessary. After making an application for a Lotteries grant, they had received emergency helicopter rides.

“There seems to be a little bit of a lack of understanding around the fact that we have a completely different situation here and it really means that we are a lot more cut off and isolated than other people.”

Millard said a lack of communication between the Kaikoura District Council and residents had been a “big issue”.

Residents were told it would take three months to write a report on the bridge’s replacement and consult the community.

No report had been communicated to residents five months after the meeting, Millard said.

Council chief executive Angela Oosthuizen said a business case discussing options for the Glen Alton bridge was still being put together and residents would have input into the final decision.

The council was upgrading the road into the valley to a reasonable 4WD standard as an interim solution, and its status as either permanent or temporary would be assessed, Oosthuizen said.

_By Emma Beaven for The Marlborough Express