The NZ Transport Agency is extending the opening hours through the Haast Pass from tomorrow (Thursday 21 November). State Highway 6, from Haast to Makarora, will be open from 8am to 7pm.
The Transport Agency's Performance Manager Pete Connors says from the six community and tourist industry meetings recently held on the West Coast and in North Otago, the Transport Agency was given a clear message that everyone wanted a review of opening hours and for these to be extended.
"From tomorrow, the highway will be open at the Diana Falls slip site from 8am. This means traffic will be able to leave Haast township at 7am and Makarora at 7.30am, to be travelling through the area at 8am rather than 9am.
"This extra hour is important for freight movement and for enabling West Coasters, in particular, to travel through to North Otago for business/shopping and return in the same day."
Mr Connors says the road will also be open at Diana Falls until 7pm. "This will enable travellers to take advantage of the longer summer evenings before relocating to either Haast township or the Glaciers or to Makarora or Wanaka before the road is closed overnight.
"From tomorrow, the road will close at Haast township at 6pm and Makarora at 6.30pm, giving travellers time to travel to and through the Diana Falls slip area before the 7pm closure."
Night-time closures are expected to remain until permanent slip protection works can be installed from April/May next year.
The Diana Falls slip has stabilised and work is getting underway to proactively manage the slip. This work involves the removal of rocks and material form the slip face that is at risk of falling down.
Mr Connors says in extending the opening hours there may be the need to introduce closures during the day to enable some of this work to be carried out. "For the last few weeks we have been managing the site with short 20-minute delays throughout the day. This will continue in the interim as it has been working well.
"If we need to introduce longer day-time closures, we will work with the local communities and tourist industry to determine the best time for minimal disruption and we will ensure everyone knows well in advance about what is happening."
He says as always, the first priority will be ensuring the safety of road users and the contractors working at the site.