Busy summer ahead for Tairāwhiti roads


With warmer temperatures and drier spells on the horizon, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is gearing up to deliver an unrivalled summer programme across the Tairāwhiti roading network.

Central North Island Regional Manager Infrastructure Delivery, Rob Partridge, says due to the amount of work underway along State Highway 35 this summer, Waka Kotahi is taking a coordinated, corridor-wide approach to improve and repair the highway.

“This year, Tairāwhiti experienced multiple severe weather events resulting in serious damage to the region’s roading network, particularly to the coastal route of SH35.

“Our capital works, maintenance and emergency works teams are working closely to ensure our programmes work in unison to minimise disruption to people’s journeys on Tairāwhiti’s highways.”

A number of SH35 Resilience and Passing Opportunity projects funded by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit were impacted by the severe weather, which together with emergency works, as well as a bumper maintenance programme including rehabilitation and reseals, means this essential connection will be busier than usual this summer (October to March, approximately).

“We know how important SH35 is to communities on the East Coast – to access necessary services, such as food and healthcare, to get kids to school, to run businesses and to stay in touch with friends and whānau.

“A lot of what people will see along SH35 this summer are improvements to the resilience of the highway. The nature of SH35’s location and geology mean challenges presented by extreme weather events can’t be completely eliminated, so we are using a range of methods to improve the resilience of the highway.

“At SH35 Pakarae, we have recently finished planting more than 500 native plants to stabilise the soft ground. Further north at Kopuaroa, we are realigning the road onto more stable terrain.”

State Highway 2 will also have a number of passing opportunity projects and general maintenance underway.

Kopuaroa Hill

A short section of SH35 at Kopuaroa Hill will be realigned onto more stable ground to enhance resilience.

This is the second of three stages to improve this section of highway, the first being an emergency works dropout repair that is underway and the third will be realigning the remaining single lane section and returning the level of service to two lanes.

Traffic management will be in place and delays of up to 10 minutes can be expected. This will be reviewed once work is underway to ensure a balance between production on site and traffic delays.

Tatapouri Hill

Work to improve SH35 at Tatapouri Hill, northeast of Gisborne, will get back underway after being halted due to severe weather earlier in the year.

The work will see the extension of the northbound slow vehicle bay from 100m to 300m in length. It will also include drainage improvements, road repairs and surfacing, sign installation, road markings and safety barriers.

These improvements will help improve safety by reducing driver frustration and are part of a wider project that aims to provide more safe places to pass slow vehicles and more places to pull off the road to check messages or take a break on state highways 2 and 35.

During the works there will be temporary speed limits in place and short periods of Stop/Go traffic management. 

“We know it’s not easy for people living and working along SH35 at the moment, and we appreciate their patience,” Mr Partridge says.

“As we said after the severe weather events in March and April, there is a lot of work to be done. The road will not look how it did prior to these events for a long time. This means there will continue to be sections of unsealed road, temporary speed limits and one-way traffic systems in place.”

Waka Kotahi will continue to provide updates for SH35 and SH2 as the programme roll-out begins and the season progresses on the Connecting Tairāwhiti website:

Check out a behind-the-scenes video(external link)

Video: Main works to improve the resilience of State Highway 35 at Kopuaroa Hill are due to get underway. In the earlier planning stages of this project we needed to assess the challenging geology of the East Coast. The rock is soft, unstable and full of water, which affects the stability of the road and we’ve needed to engineer solutions that work with the environment to ensure the most robust roads possible.