The NZ Transport Agency opened an improved section of State Highway 10 at Bulls Gorge near Kerikeri today, providing a boost for the logging, orchard and tourism industries in the Far North.
The upgraded 1.7km-long highway is wider and straighter through the gorge south of Kerikeri.
The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker says the route includes safety features to help reduce the risk of crashes and prevent fatalities and serious injury.
"We've reduced the sharp corners and steep gradients so that traffic can flow more smoothly and there are more opportunities to pass on the highway. This is important given it’s a popular tourist route with many holidaymakers in campervans driving in this part of the country."
The $7.5M upgrade project on SH10 is a key strategic connection between Auckland and the Far North regions. Mr Parker says that creating a safer environment will improve travel times for freight and logging truck drivers.
"We've installed pull over bays for heavy vehicles travelling uphill, so that will reduce frustration for other drivers wanting to pass. Previously the highway surface and steep hills, together with bad weather, caused lengthy delays."
Other safety features include new wire rope barriers and guardrails to help reduce the impact of crashes along the route. Ten metre-wide 'clear zones' providing a more gradual surface rather than a steep drop have been created at the edge of the highway to give drivers and their passengers added protection.
The NZTA collaborated with the Department of Conservation, Northland Regional Council and Transfield Services to protect wildlife while the highway was being upgraded. Eight kiwis living in the nearby reserve were relocated, tagged and monitored. A culvert was constructed to give safe passage to native eels and freshwater crayfish, and over 45,000 locally grown native trees have been planted.
At the opening Mr Parker was joined by Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, council representatives, iwi representatives from Ngati Rehia and contractors.
Work started on the project in September 2010 employing a workforce of subcontractors mostly from the l Kerikeri area and using materials sourced from the nearby Puketona quarry.