First vehicles begin their journey between Wairoa and Napier on SH2


State Highway 2 is now open between Wairoa and Napier, with the first vehicles travelling through the Devil’s Elbow and Waikare Gorge this morning.

This stretch of state highway has been closed since Cyclone Gabrielle after suffering damage to around 100 sites, including the bridge at Waikare Gorge, which was completely destroyed during the cyclone.

A Bailey bridge has now replaced that bridge while plans for a long-term replacement are finalised.

Community leaders marked the completion of the Bailey bridge yesterday with an official ceremony that included a blessing by Ngāti Pāhauwera and Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust.

Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin says restoring access for communities up and down the highway has been the driving force for everyone working on the road to get it to this point.

“We know how important this road is, not only to the communities that live alongside this section of SH2, but also those at either end - 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.

“This highway is the backbone of these communities, and we couldn’t have reached this milestone without the support and patience of everyone along the way,” says Ms Hankin.

Wairoa District Councillor Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke, who is also a Trustee for Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust and attended Saturday’s opening ceremony, says the bridge is more than just a physical structure.

“While the bridge itself connects us physically, north and south of the Waikare, its completion enables a sense of freedom. A sense of psychological and spiritual reconnection between our whānau and communities. It signals a very significant step towards full regional rehabilitation, though the proverbial road ahead is longer still.”

Wairoa District Mayor Craig Little has been looking forward to this weekend since the cyclone hit in February.

“It is tremendous to finally be able to celebrate the reopening of SH2 between Wairoa and Napier.

“This national highway is so much more than just a road. It connects Wairoa to the rest of Hawke’s Bay, to our whānau and to vital services, including healthcare.”

Ms Hankin says today’s re-opening doesn’t signify the end of the road for repair and recovery.

“Contractors will continue to be present at a number of locations along the highway during daylight hours, working on areas with varying levels of damage.

“This means people driving through the area will see considerable traffic management in places and lower speed restrictions.

“Over the past few months, people in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti have become very familiar with driving to the conditions, and we’re asking them to continue to exercise patience and understanding, drive to the conditions and be considerate of other people on the road, including our roadworkers, especially in areas where the road is down to one lane, such as the Waikare Gorge Bailey bridge.

“This stretch of SH2 suffered the most damage of any of our networks, largely due to the topography of the surrounding area. We’re incredibly grateful to our contractors and bridge engineers for their hard work and commitment in getting the road to this point,” says Ms Hankin.

Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst echoes those sentiments.

“We are immensely relieved that access has been restored for our isolated communities, particularly for our rural residents in an around Putorino and Tutira, who have been cut off for so long.

"The highway is also incredibly important to the economies of Gisborne and Tairāwhiti, given it is a critical connection to Napier Port.

"I acknowledge the work of the teams that have repaired such major damage, successfully reconnecting us to our communities and our Wairoa neighbours, ahead of schedule,” says Mayor Hazlehurst.

Mayor Little says now the road is open, the people of Wairoa are looking forward to reconnecting with family, agencies, services and people who they have not seen for three very long months. 

“This road is our lifeline, and we are appreciative of the work that has gone into restoring connectivity,” says Mayor Little.

Yesterday's opening ceremony at Waikare Gorge