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Angry Kaikoura locals round on English

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/12/2016

Angry Kaikoura locals have rounded on Prime Minister Bill English over the state of their roads and the time it's taking to fix them. © Twitter Angry Kaikoura locals have rounded on Prime Minister Bill English over the state of their roads and the time it's taking to fix them. Angry Kaikoura locals have let Prime Minister Bill English know what they think about the state of their roads and the time it's taking to fix them.

During his visit to Kaikoura by Air Force helicopter on Thursday Mr English landed on the lawn of Kekerengu cafe The Store to be met by about 40 angry and frustrated locals.

Clarence farmer John Murray told Mr English: "We had a meeting here three weeks ago and Gerry (Brownlee) was here, and we left full of hope that something was going to happen ... we have sat down there for three weeks and

nothing has bloody well happened.

"It's shocking, it's the absolute pits."

Mr Murray said progress on opening earthquake-damaged roads was too slow.

"They've made patch-up repairs all the way through and the roads from Ward and Waipapa Bay should have been upgraded ... I reckon it's piss poor and if that's what our government feels about us and how we deal with

emergencies then I'm afraid you have lost a lot of votes."

Mr Brownlee, who was with Mr English, told Mr Murray he resented the comments.

"What I can say is NZTA have not been sitting on their backsides," he said.

"The amount of work that's gone in to try and sort things out here is just extraordinary.

"Sorry you're frustrated, but I'm pissed off that you took that attitude quite frankly."

Mr English moved to take the heat out of the discussion.

"The question around this is getting the right amount of communication with you guys because you're on the road, you're going to be watching this every day and I think it's quite important you know what's going to happen," he said.

Not everyone at the meeting felt as strongly as Mr Murray.

One woman interrupted his tirade and questioned his assertion that nothing had been done.

She said many locals understood the challenges that were being faced.

Earlier Mr English and Mr Brownlee, the acting civil defence minister, met with locals in a town hall meeting in Kaikoura.

The visit comes as the government announced it would cost up to $2 billion to restore State Highway 1 and the rail corridor north and south of Kaikoura after last month's 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Mr English told locals the re-opening of SH1 and funding to dredge Kaikoura Harbour will "push the button" on the town's recovery.

"We want to be absolutely clear we are re-opening that road as quickly as possible," he told a meeting of around 30 local business owners.

He said the government was being careful about the timing but it could be up and running within a year.

One farmer disagreed and said the town was being "strangled" because of slow progress on opening the road. He asked for an inquiry on how it was managed.

Mr Brownlee said the process was "quite technical ... it's something I'd defend pretty strongly".

And there was concern officials were too cautious about allowing locals with 4WD vehicles access to the road.

"Let locals that know the area take the risk ... This would allow people up in Clarence to be part of this community," one man said.

Mr Brownlee said: "I can only take that on board, I can't respond."

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