Most of this money has come from the Board’s Auckland Transport Capital Fund of $200,000 p.a., which can be spent at the Local Board’s discretion but was envisaged for more conventional projects such as footpaths, road seal and road safety improvements.
The latest big spend by the Board is on a bridle trail to the south of Ostend Rd leading to Onetangi Road. This wide area has served the walking and riding public well up to now and, in fact, provides more room than most of Waiheke’s other road verges. However, it was clearly next on the list of getting someone’s horse from A to B. $46,000 alone has been allocated to clearing bamboo from the road reserve.
The bamboo, which was first planted on the adjacent private land, is of ‘suckering’ variety, which means it grows rapidly by spreading suckers. Over a number of years it has encroached onto the roadside reserve (used as a bridle path and footpath) and reduced its width.
In many ways cutting down the bamboo is the easy part. The hard part is to stop it coming back. Suckering bamboo is notoriously hard to eradicate and unless the bamboo that remains on the private land-owner side is also completely removed it will continue to spread.
Just about the only reliable method is to ‘paint’ the remaining stalks with a chemical application. Using toxic chemicals on Waiheke’s roadsides is a sensitive subject with a long history and Auckland Transport will need to use a product that meets Auckland Council’s guidelines on acceptability. When the Waiheke Local Board approved the expenditure on this project you would expect them to have quizzed Auckland Transport on their methodology. But it appears not. I searched the minutes for details on the Board’s interest and requirements on this or any record as to how the work will be done, but I could find nothing.
Even if the Board has approved the bamboo stalks being painted with toxic chemical killers, the newly cleared area will still require a high level of on-going maintenance to prevent the bamboo from re-suckering. This means an increasing amount of the decreasing Auckland Transport budget will have to be spent on maintenance of this area. In turn, this means there will less money for the maintenance of Waiheke’s other footpaths and roads.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, re-growth is already happening. This is extremely dangerous. Any horse or pedestrian using the trail faces having its hooves or feet cut to ribbons. Bamboo torture, where prisoners were caged under rapidly growing bamboo so they would be slowly skewered to death, was a favourite of the Japanese in the Far East in WWII. In effect the trail would become a ‘trial by torture’ for horses and pedestrians.
My guess is that this is another Board project that will blow well out of budget because, once more, it has been at the whim of the Waldens and not based on fiscal responsibility and common-sense.