Waka Kotahi contractors have worked tirelessly since Cyclone Gabrielle struck Aotearoa early this week to re-open crucial transport lifelines and reconnect isolated communities.
When a National State of Emergency was declared on Tuesday morning, more than 30 sections of state highway in the North Island were completely closed to traffic, including a significant proportion of the state highway networks serving Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Manawatu, the Central Plateau, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.
In the four days since Tuesday morning contractors have worked tirelessly in very challenging conditions to clear slips, remove debris and carry out vital geotechnical safety inspections at dozens of affected sites.
“The result of that great mahi is that half of those previously closed sections of highway have now fully or partially re-opened.
“Our number one priority currently is restoring access to isolated North Island communities as soon as possible, to enable essential services and supplies to get through.
“We are hugely thankful to the hard-working men and women on our contracting crews who are doing the hard yards to re-open these critical transport links. Many of these people live in areas which have been badly affected by the storm, and they are getting on with this vital work even as their own friends and families are affected,” says Waka Kotahi National Emergency Response Team spokesperson Mark Owen.
“Top of our mind of course is that access to some communities remains very tenuous. Several roads remain closed, and the extent of damage sustained means some will be closed for extended periods of time. There is a massive amount of work still to do, and there will be ongoing disruptions and other challenges in these regions for some time.
Mr Owen says Waka Kotahi it’s important people realise that even as roads are re-opened, driving conditions remain very challenging in many places, with lane restrictions, detours, temporary speed limits and stop-go or other temporary traffic management in place while contractors continue to work.
“For your own safety and for the safety of our crews on the ground, please drive to the conditions and follow all signage. It’s especially important to slow down through work sites and comply with all temporary speed limits – they are in place to keep everyone safe.
“Please also only travel if you need to. We want to make it as easy as possible for essential goods and emergency services to access affected communities.
The on-line Waka Kotahi Journey Planner is being continually updated with the latest available information, and is the best source of the most current information for anyone who does need to travel.
Waka Kotahi is urging anyone who does need to drive in cyclone-damaged areas to adjust their driving to the conditions, which means slowing down, increasing following distances, switching headlights on and watching for surface water and other debris on the road.
Access to Northland has significantly improved today, with only one major closure remaining in place. SH1 Dome Valley has re-opened to traffic today. Access was restored on SH12, SH14, SH15 and SH16 earlier in the week with some restrictions.
Road access to Coromandel has significantly improved with SH25 opening last night, although extreme caution is advised when travelling through this area. Due to multiple slip sites, there are still temporary lane closures in place in various locations, and restrictions for heavy vehicles in sections.
SH2 in the Karangahake Gorge remains open following the clearance of slips, fallen trees and surface flooding.
Access across Hawke’s Bay is improving with the Hawke’s Bay Expressway partially opening last night, although localised restrictions and diversions remain in place and caution is advised when travelling through this area.
Significant challenges remain in Gisborne although progress is being made. SH35 around the East Cape Te Puia Springs and between Gisborne to Tolaga Bay is now open with localised restrictions.