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NZTA working to minimise disruption on East Coast

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The NZ Transport Agency is working to minimise disruption for communities on the East Coast affected by the ongoing closure of State Highway 35 at Busby's Hill south of Tokamaru Bay.

The NZ Transport Agency is working to minimise disruption for communities on the East Coast affected by the ongoing closure of State Highway 35 at Busby's Hill south of Tokamaru Bay.

NZTA has put in place a one-way travel system on the alternative route to reduce disruption on the narrow and unsealed Tuakau Road section.

Effective immediately, all traffic heading south may proceed on even hours (ie 2pm, 4pm, etc) for 45 minute periods, from the Ihungia Road/Tuakau Road intersection. Northbound traffic can proceed through Tuakau Road on odd hours (3pm, 5pm, etc), from the junction of Tuakau Road/Mata Road. This applies to daylight hours only (ie 7am to 5pm) and will continue for several days. NZTA contractors are on-site managing traffic in both directions.

The alternative route, which is provided by the Gisborne District Council, has been in place since Friday.

NZTA crews will be working to stabilise the slumping hillside as soon as possible. The damage to the highway is severe and it is expected to be another week before the highway can be reopened to light vehicles, although this depends on weather conditions.

“The land has become extremely waterlogged and effectively collapsed from underneath the road, and the hillside is still moving,” says NZTA Central Regional Director Jenny Chetwynd.

“The safety of road users is our most important consideration and we are unable to reopen this stretch of highway until we are confident it is stable enough to travel on safely.

“We are also working hard to get essential supplies through to the people who need them.”

Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA is continuing to offer to escort convoys of essential goods through the alternative route, allowing supplies of food and LPG to get through to locals.

Ms Chetwynd thanks motorists and the people of the East Coast for their patience and understanding during the closure.

“We understand the effect this lengthy closure has on the people of the East Coast, and I assure them we’re doing everything in our power to fix it.”

Ms Chetwynd says the alternative route is currently unsuitable for regular use by heavy vehicles due to the narrowness of the road, and only escorted heavy vehicles carrying essential supplies were currently permitted to use it. However, the NZTA is planning urgent improvements to the route to allow temporary restricted access to heavy vehicles in the near future.

“We know this closure has a huge impact on the truckies and local industry, and that’s at the front of our minds. Minimising disruption while keeping motorists safe is our number one priority.”

The detour is signposted with speed restrictions and managed by a manned roadblock. It is approximately 30km long and will add up to an hour to motorists’ journey times. It runs from Mata Road just south of Busby’s Hill, through Tuakau Road, to Ihungia Road just north of Te Puia Springs. Ms Chetwynd advises that sections of this alternative route are narrow and unsealed and recommends it is only used for essential travel.

The other detour is via Opotiki/SH2. 

The NZTA is investigating a permanent solution that will provide a longer term fix for this vulnerable section of highway. Late last month the NZTA opened the SH35 Goldsmith’s Hill Realignment to traffic, which provides a long-term solution to the highway at Kemp’s Hill, where a similar closure happened last year.

The NZTA will continue to issue updates on this closure as developments arise.

The NZTA urges all motorists in the Gisborne district to drive with caution, and advises them to check www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) for the latest updates on state highway conditions and closures.

For more information please contact:

Anthony Frith
Communications Adviser
M :  027 309 8725
E : anthony.frith@nzta.govt.nz

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