Track services

Couple’s quest for good life in Taranaki outback back on track after road closure decision

A couple living at the end of an unmaintained rural road want to close it off to the public so they can keep access to their property open.

Taranaki South District Council

A couple living at the end of an unmaintained rural road want to close it off to the public so they can keep access to their property open.

A couple’s dream of living the good off-grid life in the Taranaki outback is hopefully back on track after the decision to close the dirt road they live on to everyone except to inhabitants during half the year.

The couple bought a property about two years ago in isolated highland on an unmaintained section of Braemore Rd halfway between Hāwera and Whanganui with the intention of living off the grid and off the land.

But since moving in, the couple claim they have been shot, their property has been attacked and vandals have damaged their vehicles.

In addition to the damage caused to the road leading to their home by off-road enthusiasts who ripped up the dirt road with their 4×4 vehicles, the couple were unable to access their property safely.

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The couple are the first and only people to live on the particular section of Braemore Rd, which the council does not maintain but which provides access to a Department of Conservation area that hunters can use with a permit.

In winter, the road is only accessible with a 4×4 vehicle.

In 2021, the couple’s request to close the road was rejected and they had hoped to make a fresh plea in person to South Taranaki District Council earlier this year.

Unfortunately, they were unable to attend the meeting because a slide had made the road impassable, Community and Infrastructure Services Manager Fiona Aitken told councillors.

Their in-person request was in support of a letter their solicitor sent to council earlier this year saying the damage to the road was so severe it posed a safety risk to the couple accessing their property.

The road is almost impassable in winter and 4x4 enthusiasts have caused a lot of damage.

Taranaki South District Council

The road is almost impassable in winter and 4×4 enthusiasts have caused a lot of damage.

The couple said they had already paid $70,000 to repair the road after logging work on their property, only to see it damaged again by reckless driving by four-wheel-drive enthusiasts.

Inland from Waverley, the area is sparsely populated and one of the most isolated areas of Taranaki.

The couple and other landowners in the area were also concerned about the destruction of the natural environment as kiwis and other native species live in the surrounding forest and their existence was endangered by reckless driving.

It had been a long year for the family as they had purchased the property a year earlier with dreams of living off the grid and off the land. However, that didn’t happen, Aitken said.

Barriers to slow traffic have been tested but have proven ineffective in stopping vehicles.

Taranaki South District Council

Barriers to slow traffic have been tested but have proven ineffective in stopping vehicles.

To feel safe on their property, the couple asked the council to close the unmaintained section of the road during the wet winter months, so they could maintain the track themselves to keep full access and be able to enjoy life again.

Police confirmed there had been calls for incidents involving firearms in the area, and the couple had provided a photo of a person on a four-wheeled vehicle holding a firearm, Aitken said .

Taranaki Kiwi Trust staff also had concerns about people with guns because it was quite a remote area, she said.

In a report to council, it was stated that other landowners on the road were also happy to see it closed for the winter, provided they had access.

The council voted to close the road in winter from next year, between May 1 and October 31.

The couple could not be contacted.