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Road closure procedure to be reviewed

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The NZ Transport Agency is to work with the police, its contractors and civil defence to review its procedures for road closures along the Kaikoura Coast following the stranding of motorists on State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura at Easter.

The NZ Transport Agency is to work with the police, its contractors and civil defence to review its procedures for road closures along the Kaikoura Coast following the stranding of motorists on State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura at Easter.

Representatives from the organisations met in Kaikoura yesterday to review events and look at ways to improve procedures to prevent a similar situation happening.

The Transport Agency’s Highway Manager Colin Knaggs says it was unfortunate that motorists became caught between slips on the highway at the start of the Easter break. “It was not an ideal situation and one we try to avoid by ensuring our highways are closed before conditions deteriorate to the extent where motorists are stranded.

“However, with this event, there was a deluge of rain late evening which resulted in extensive flooding and a number of slips along a significant stretch of the highway, stranding a number of vehicles overnight.”

He says the Transport Agency will work with the organisations involved to look at the road closure procedures and whether there needs to be any changes to ensure an appropriate balance between safety and access.

“It is important we get this right to ensure both the safety of motorists and also our contractors and police, who worked in difficult conditions on the night with up to 30mm of rain falling an hour in the area when the highway became impassable.”

He noted that in hindsight, it had been recognised that the highway should have been closed earlier.

Mr Knaggs says yesterday’s meeting acknowledged conditions were made worse with the loss of communications at about 11pm that night, making it difficult to get messages out about the state of the highway.

“We are going to look at how we can improve communications when presented with such conditions and also what we can do to keep motorists better informed about what is happening on the highway.”

Work is also to be done to see if there are other ways to get better early warnings that severe weather is on its way. “There was a storm warning for the country but what happened on the Kaikoura Coast was significantly worse than forecast and it did catch everyone off guard.”

At the meeting, the group acknowledged the support from the local community in assisting travellers, providing food and shelter.

The Transport Agency is also to review how it can ensure that motorists better understand the meaning of road conditions to make informed decisions about when to travel or stay at home.

Mr Knaggs says while every effort will be made to improve procedures, in reality, events like what  happened at Easter, will continue to happen from time-to-time and sometimes there will be nothing that can be done to prevent it.

“What we are doing is working to minimise the risk for everyone.”

For more information please contact:

Jan McCarthy
Media Manager - Christchurch
NZ Transport Agency

T: 03 964 2885 
M: 021 427 442
E: jan.mccarthy@nzta.govt.nz
W: www.nzta.govt.nz(external link)

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