Runabout on the Mata
Driving 150km every day on Tairāwhiti’s busiest forestry routes isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it’s something that Barbara Wharehinga takes in her stride.
“Runabout postie at the 15k, heading to the 16, Mata,” she says calmly into her radio.
She gets a quick reply, “Loaded at the 17 coming down, I’ll wait here for you Barb, come through.”
Radio conversations like these are the norm for Barbara, as one of the rural posties in the Tokomaru Bay area.
For seven years she’s sorted the mail at the back of the Tokomaru Bay Four Square and headed up through the Mata, Fernside, Tuakau Roads and down through Waipiro and Kopuaroa roads.
“The thing I love most about this job is the people. They depend on me, I deliver everything from normal mail, food and milk, to building supplies,” she said.
“A lot of people ask me about how dangerous it is, but most truckies who use this road are awesome, really kind and always on their radios and keeping me safe.”
“It’s when the roads get really bad that things are different, and you need to pay a bit more attention. When it’s wet it can get slippery and there’s no dust cloud ahead to show you someone’s coming,” she laughs.
Barbara’s job has been made a whole lot easier and safer by the recent upgrades of Mata Road and other rural freight routes on the East Coast.
Having a son and son-in-law working in forestry and another son at the port, Barbara knows too well that when forestry and farming can’t operate, the knock-on effect is far-reaching.
“There’s been heaps of work going up here and it’s the best I’ve seen. It’s so good to see,” she said.
“We talk a lot on the coast about access to basic services and this can be difficult up here sometimes.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but investment like this keeps us moving, makes it safer for us and gives people more work and access to the services they deserve.
“I really hope we continue receiving funding like this to keep our roads in this condition.”
By the end of this year over $60m will have been invested into rural freight routes, funded by the Provincial Growth Fund and Tairāwhiti Redeployment Programme.
Over 500 local people are working across 26 local roading projects, including more than 230 people redeployed into new employment.
For more information about both PGF and TRP investment programmes, see www.gdc.govt.nz/major-projects(external link).