Traffic will be heavy on highways out of Christchurch and some parts of the South Island this weekend as people head off for Easter. The NZ Transport Agency is asking drivers to plan ahead to avoid delays and enjoy a safe trip.
Check the weather forecast(external link) before you leave and be aware the tail end of a cyclone is hitting parts of the South Island today – Buller, Westland and Nelson, Clutha, Dunedin and North Otago. “Wet, slippery, roads can be unforgiving of even small mistakes, particularly on bends,” says Lee Wright, Transport Agency Journey Manager Canterbury/ West Coast.
Ms Wright says motorists need to be prepared for this weather. “We need everyone to drive to the conditions, to allow more time for their journey, to slow down, be prepared for unexpected hazards on the roads, be patient and check all the key parts of your vehicle before you head away – spare tyre, windscreen wipers, brakes.
“People can check the HotSpots(external link) (www.nzta.govt.nz/hotspots(external link) ) page on our website, so they know where and at what times the roads have got congested over previous Easter weekends. Leaving earlier or later may help smooth out your journey and avoid the peak congested times,” she says.
“With State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura closed, anyone driving through the top of the South Island will need to allow extra time as delays are very likely, with four times the usual traffic volumes on the route,” says Ms Wright.
“Travelling this alternate route (state highways 7, 65, 6 and 63) between Christchurch and Picton will take on average seven and a half hours. It’s a challenging drive – narrow and winding in many places, with single-lane bridges and there are speed restrictions. People will need to be vigilant, take extra care and only overtake when safe.”
The Alternate Route is resulting in longer journey times. She advised drivers to take regular breaks to stay alert.
Drivers heading north from Christchurch on State Highway 1 should expect heavy traffic from 4.00pm to 7.00pm on Thursday afternoon, 13 April, and if heading south on SH1 on Thursday, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.
See the Waipara and Ashburton to Christchurch (SH1) congested times below:
Kaikoura’s most reliable route is Route 70 via Culverden, Waiau and Mt Lyford, however the State Highway 1 south is also generally open 7 am to 6 pm, weather and rockfall risk permitting. Check the Traffic and Travel(external link) pages for updates.
Electronic signs at Waipara and north of Cheviot will tell drivers if the state highway is closed or not. The Leader Road, north of Cheviot, provides a link back to the Waiau inland road if the highway has to be closed at short notice.
Easter Monday, 17 April, 10 am to midday is the busiest time on State Highway 6 out of Queenstown. (See example from the Hotspots links below.)
Because of the extra visitors in Queenstown, drivers need to be patient and allow extra time for their journey. There could be delays at highway traffic pinch points in the Frankton area, such as the BP roundabout and the single lane Kawarau Falls Bridge.
“Hotspots”(external link) information for Queenstown and State Highway 6:
Ways to find out what is happening on the highway network: