The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is advising motorists keen to sightsee on State Highway 46 to take extra care when driving through the area and to avoid stopping on the highway if possible.
NZTA highway network operations manager, Karen Boyt, says residents and other motorists in the area have raised concerns over the number of vehicles in the area following this week’s minor eruption on Mount Tongariro.
“We are being told that people travelling into the central plateau to view the eruption site from the highway are creating road safety hazards for other road users in the area,” says Ms Boyt. “We would always encourage motorists to avoid stopping on a highway unless there is a dedicated rest area to pull into; as even parking well to left can still cause visibility problems or create an obstacle for other people driving past.”
“Not only are people stopping; we have had reports of people running back and forth across the highway, often in front of oncoming traffic, endangering themselves and others. We would also like to remind drivers travelling through this area to stay alert and keep their eyes on the road rather than the scenery, until they find an appropriate rest area to stop in.”
Ms Boyt says at this stage SH46 remains open and the Agency is working closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC), Taupo District Council, Waikato Regional Council, GNS Science and civil defence staff as further monitoring and analysis of the situation continues.
“We appreciate that people are keen to take a look at the volcanic activity in the central plateau area, but it’s essential that they don’t forget how their actions can impact on their safety and the safety of others. That remains our top priority, regardless of whether activity in this volcanic area is of a minor or more significant nature.”
Ms Boyt says the NZTA will update drivers on highway conditions in the area should any change in the current situation occur. “In the meantime, we have signage in place along the highway, reminding people about the issues related to stopping on SH46.”
“Our contractors will continue to monitor the area extremely closely, which they have been doing since changes in volcanic activity were noted earlier this year. They will be able to respond very quickly if they detect anything of concern. We’ll also be sharing this information with the other organisations carrying out their own monitoring and analysis activities in this area and they will be doing the same with us.”
Ms Boyt says that should an event occur where the highway needs to be closed, drivers can instead travel via SH1, SH41 and SH47. Regularly updated information on road conditions is available the NZTA's freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) or online at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link).