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Ex Cyclone Hale: SH35 road closure at Kopuaroa – further road closures expected in Coromandel and Gisborne

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Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists that State Highway 35 (SH35) between Ruatoria and Te Puia Springs will be closed at 7pm tonight and further road closures are expected along the East Coast.

2:40pm update:

State Highway 35 will now be closed between Ruatōria and Tolaga Bay at 7pm tonight. This is due to safety concerns around the Hikuwai river.

This information updates the media release below.

On SH35, the Kopuaroa Hill Improvements Project site, located within the road closure, has suffered further damage overnight with more movement expected as Ex Cyclone Hale passes through. 

National Journey Manager Helen Harris says safety is the top priority for our communities. 

“The ground is already saturated and with this evening’s forecasted rainfall, we’re expecting further movement on Kopuaroa. 

“Our contractors will be watching the area closely and planning for a closure at 7pm — or earlier if conditions become unsafe before then.” 

The closure will be reassessed at first light tomorrow morning. 

In the Coromandel – drivers should plan ahead for road closures, as Waka Kotahi expects State Highway 25 (SH25) will close in multiple places. 

SH25 closed west of Matarangi due to flooding this morning. 

Rising flood waters are beginning to affect roads in multiple areas and a further 100 to 150mm of rain is forecast to fall through to 10pm tonight. 

It’s likely that there will be flooding south of Tairua, south of Whitianga and at the Kauaeranga spillway in Thames, near the airfield. 

There may also be waves washing onto the road where the state highway is close to the sea, such as around Whitianga. 

Waka Kotahi is urging motorists to delay travel and stay off affected roads if they can. If they must travel, they should expect the unexpected and remain alert. 

Ms Harris says further damage is expected to occur on the network, even after rainfall stops, due to saturated ground and unstable slopes. 

In Tairāwhiti, between 200 and 250 millimetres of rain is expected through to 2am tomorrow, along with four to six metre swells. Road crews will be patrolling SH35 and State Highway 2 north and south, monitoring known slip sites and responding to any issues. 

Ms Harris says; “We are working with emergency services, Gisborne District Council, Eastland Network and Civil Defence to coordinate movement for emergency and service vehicles across the region. 

Unsealed local roads in Tairāwhiti, are closed to heavy freight trucks until 8pm Wednesday 11 January. 

Contractors will be out responding to network flooding and any slips and fallen trees if it is safe to do so, and Ms Harris asks people to stay alert for unreported hazards, including fallen branches, and the potential of downed powerlines. 

“Drive to the conditions, view the latest weather forecast on the MetService website and check your intended route for hazards or disruptions before setting out using the Waka Kotahi interactive Journey Planner website. 

The Ex Cyclone Hale is expected to have moved through the Coromandel Peninsula by tomorrow morning. 

Waka Kotahi will continue to provide updates about the Kopuaroa Hill road closure and any other issues that impact travel. 

Kopuaroa Hill Improvements Project is part of the SH35 Resilience Programme aimed at strengthening and stabilising Tairāwhiti’s roading network. 

SH35 resilience programme

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