One of the delights of Waikawa Beach is that there are no commercial services: no cafe or coffee cart, no vege shops or dairies to bring visitors, traffic, and paper cups blowing along the beach in the wind.
On the other hand, if you’ve run out of milk or potatoes then it’s 7+ Km each way to State Highway 1 to pick some up at Manakau. To reach Ōtaki or Levin it’s a full 15 Km each way.
Only the fit would cycle that far; only the foolish would cycle along the section of SH1 that ranks in the top 100 in Aotearoa New Zealand for road accidents and deaths.
That leaves us to take the car for most errands. For most of us that means burdening the air with noxious gases and leaving traces of rubber and oil on the roadway to wash into the paddocks and drains.
News of an additional 4-lane road with shared path then is very welcome. Within a decade we may be able to take a low-traffic route to the shops. An electric bike could ease the journey if the goal is to enjoy coffee and cake out, or to pick up the forgotten broccoli.
It could also make it feasible, with a planned improved train service, to cycle to a train station, take the bike on a train to a destination, and then return, all without getting the car out of the garage. And just imagine how convenient it would be if the train were to stop at Manakau!
The population in Horowhenua is increasing dramatically. By the time the road building begins in 2025 we’re likely to see even more jammed up traffic on SH1, followed by several years of not only increasing general traffic but also roadworks and a huge number of additional vehicles to service the road construction.
Waikawa Beach is a quiet little backwater, and most residents like it like that. We don’t want shops and cafes, but we do need ways to reach those things that don’t require us to pull out the petrol guzzler. We’re in for some interesting times.
Published in Ōtaki Today, February 2020.
Photo by Miraz Jordan: traffic jam at the intersection of SH1 and Waikawa Beach Road.