13 May 2014

Dust-up over log trucks on gravel road

8:51 am on 13 May 2014

A school bus-driver in Northland says she worries every day about the safety of her young passengers, because of log trucks on gravel roads.

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Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Beckie Nathan was taking part in a protest hikoi in Whangarei on Tuesday, organised by Pipwai people fed up with the dust clouds created by the big forestry rigs.

She says in her 33-years as a bus driver and trainer, she's never had to work in such hazardous conditions.

Mrs Nathan says she's forced to stop when she sees a log truck coming towards her bus, because she can see nothing until the big dust cloud clears, and that's especially dangerous on corners.

Whangarei District Council says it can't afford to seal the gravel roads even though they are now being used intensively by logging trucks, and need constant grading.

It says the Government has cut the funding subsidies available for new seal.

logging truck on gravel roadno captions Northland

Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Northland National MP Mike Sabin says Northland councils set their own roading priorities, and they would stand a better chance of securing more funding if they worked together on a business case.

He says there is a possibility the regions might receive some extra money for roads in the Budget.

The dust stirred up by the log trucks north-west of Whangarei has also been identified as a health risk for residents living near the roads.

Tests carried out for Northland Health last year showed the presence of the small particles known as PM 10's, which can lodge in the lungs and cause permanent damage.

Mrs Nathan says in dry summers, like the ones Northland has experienced for the last four years, there is no way to keep the dust out of her bus.

She says the children she drives to and from school are forced to inhale the dust for much of their journey.

Beckie Nathan.

Beckie Nathan. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams