Around 30 heavy vehicles were some of the first to travel State Highway 5 between Taupo and Napier since Cyclone Gabrielle devastated the route, as part of a freight convoy this morning.
The first convoy ran between Taupo and Napier, with a convoy travelling in the other direction leaving later this afternoon.
Convoys will run on weekdays only, with the direction alternating each day. For example, tomorrow the morning convoy will run from Napier to Taupo, with the afternoon convoy running in the opposite direction. On Thursday, the convoy will run from Taupo to Napier in the morning, and Napier to Taupo in the afternoon.
Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin says the damage to SH5 from Cyclone Gabrielle was significant and Waka Kotahi and its contractors have worked incredibly hard to get the road to a state where opening up for freight convoys was a possibility.
“There are 32 damaged sites the convoys have to travel through or past, ranging from minor dropouts to significant underslips and washouts.
“We’ve had crews working incredibly hard from both the Taupo and Napier ends of the highway, clearing
“Restoring connections like SH5 is critical to support the country’s economic and social growth and to provide resilient and safe access for our ffarming, horticulture and tourism sectors to connect with local and export markets,” Ms Hankin says.
With Hawke’s Bay cut off by the SH5 closure to the west and the State Highway 2 closure to the north, heavy vehicles needing to travel to or from the region were having to travel as far south as Palmerston North prior to the convoy - a massive increase in time and cost.
The convoy included heavy vehicles transporting essentail supplies, such as food, as well as livestock and building supplies.
Waka Kotahi recognises the number of heavy vehicles traveling as part of the convoy will have an impact on both the communities along State Highway 5 and those at either end. People are asked to avoid travel in the relevant areas at the times the convoys are expected to pass through where possible or to expect delays and be patient.
Ms Hankin says Waka Kotahi will assess the road following the initial convoys and convoys may need to be cancelled at short notice due to any vulnerability in the road.
“Our next step is to open access to the general public, which we’re expecting to do by the end of the month.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the patience and resilience of the communities that live alongside SH5, and we’re looking forward to reopening this important connection to essential services and supplies, schools, work and friends and whanau for them as soon as we’re able to do so safely.”