Waka Kotahi contractors have worked tirelessly since Cyclone Gabrielle struck Aotearoa last month to re-open crucial transport lifelines and reconnect isolated communities.
When a National State of Emergency was declared on Tuesday 14 February, more than 30 sections of state highway in the North Island were completely closed to traffic, including a significant proportion of the state highway networks serving Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Manawatu, the Central Plateau, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.
“In a little more than two weeks since, contractors have worked around the clock in very challenging conditions to clear slips, remove debris, carry out vital geotechnical safety inspections and restore public access through dozens of affected sites,” says Waka Kotahi National Emergency Response Team spokesperson Mark Owen.
“Access has been restored around the Coromandel Peninsula for all vehicles via SH25, good progress has been made in Gisborne to restore access on SH2 north to Ōpōtiki and SH2 south to Wairoa, in Hawke’s Bay access from the south into Napier and Hastings is available via SH2 and SH50, and earlier this week SH1 at the Brynderwyn Hills was re-opened for northbound traffic.
“We’ve also announced that the main route to Raglan is on track to re-open to the public on Saturday (March 4), with the final paving work underway on a two-lane temporary diversion around the large slip that has closed State Highway 23.
“Our top priority has been restoring access to isolated North Island communities as soon as possible, initially to enable essential services and supplies to get through. While there is a massive amount of work still to do, and there will be ongoing disruptions and other challenges in these regions for some time, we’re thrilled that we’re able to provide public access on more key routes as the repair work continues.
“We’re also very grateful to all the men and women on our contracting crews who are doing the hard yards to re-open these critical transport links. Many of these people live in areas which have been badly affected by the storm, and they are getting on with this vital work even as their own friends and families are affected,” Mr Owen says.
Mr Owen says it’s important people realise that even as roads are re-opened, driving conditions remain challenging in many places, with lane restrictions, detours, temporary speed limits and stop-go or other temporary traffic management in place while contractors continue to work.
“For your own safety and for the safety of our crews on the ground, please drive to the conditions and follow all signage. It’s especially important to slow down through work sites and comply with all temporary speed limits – they are in place to keep everyone safe.
The online Waka Kotahi Journey Planner is being continually updated with the latest available information, and is the best source of the most current information for anyone who does need to travel.
Access is improving in Northland with SH1 Brynderwyns open northbound to one lane. Southbound freight continues detouring around SH12 and SH14. Mangawhai Road remains closed with the only local road detour around Brynderwyn via Paparoa-Oakleigh. All other local roads bypassing Waipu are closed or for local access only. Work is continuing to fully open the Brynderwyns, with an estimated full opening towards the end of March.
Access has been restored around the Coromandel Peninsula for all vehicles via SH25. Caution is still required, and drivers should expect some delays. SH25A remains closed from Kōpū to Hikuai, due to a major underslip. Significant work is required, and it is likely to be twelve months before the road opens to traffic.
The main route to Raglan is scheduled to re-open to the public on Saturday (March 4), with the final paving work underway on a two-lane temporary diversion around the large slip that has closed SH 23.
Access from the south into Napier/Hastings is now available via SH2 and SH50, but congestion is being experienced. Access has been achieved on SH38 for emergency vehicles only, but further assessment is required. Progress is being made on SH5 Taupō to Te Pōhue but a significant underslip south of Te Pōhue has hampered progress to Bay View. We continue to work to restore full access. Progress is being made from Napier to Wairoa, but significant repairs are required including Bailey’s bridging.
Progress has being made to restore access on SH2 north to Ōpōtiki and SH2 south to Wairoa. SH2 from Tolaga to Tokomaru Bay is in good shape apart from two key areas – the Hikuwai Bridge and Mangahauini Gorge. Planning is underway for the installation of a temporary Bailey Bridge at Hikuwai. A bypass being constructed by local contractors at Mangahauini is being assessed by Waka Kotahi to ensure it is fit for purpose.