NZ Transport Agency contractors have resumed urgent work to assess the safety of key South Island state highway routes and continue clearing slips to safely re-open roads as soon as conditions allow.
With heavy rains and strong winds affecting many areas and continuing aftershocks contributing to the on-going risk of further slips and rockfalls in several parts of the South Island, the Transport Agency is urging people to avoid non-essential travel and to drive with extra caution
The Transport Agency is working urgently with Kaikoura District Council to open the inland road (old State Highway 70) between Culverden and Kaikoura. Work is continuing today to assess the road and structures for damage, and crews will do everything possible to have this route safely open within days.
State Highway 1, Picton to Blenheim/Seddon is now open but Seddon to Cheviot remains closed. Cheviot to Christchurch is open.
An alternative inland state highway route was re-established on Monday afternoon between Picton and Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass, re-establishing access for local communities and allowing large trucks access through to Christchurch.
While the route is open, the NZTA is advising that some sections are reduced to a single lane, with active traffic management in place. Motorists are urged to use caution and take extra care as conditions are still changing.
Transport Agency Highway Manager Neil Walker says an urgent priority for the Agency is undertaking a detailed assessment of the scale and complexity of the large slips which are blocking SH1 on either side of Kaikoura.
He says in assessing sites blocked by large slips, the safety of the public, as well as Transport Agency staff and contractors is paramount, particularly with the continuing strong aftershocks and the risk of further slips and rockfalls.
The priority is to re-connect communities which have been cut off by slips and the Transport Agency is working urgently with other agencies such as Police, KiwiRail and local authorities to coordinate efforts ensuring that people are transported out of closed areas safely, and roads or alternative routes are open and safe to use as soon as possible.
Mr Walker says it is too soon to tell how long it will take to fully assess all of the damage on South Island roads, but contractors are working urgently to open routes, or open up safe detour routes.
“Some have already been assessed and work has been planned for some sections of the highway with less severe damage. Other sites are currently inaccessible by road and/or 4WD and the safety risk needs to be carefully managed both in assessment and in the emergency repair work itself. Transport Agency and council teams are working as fast as we can to reopen highways or find alternative routes to places like Kaikoura.”
Mr Walker says State Highway 7 is open, providing an alternative route for traffic to travel north to Blenheim. Drivers need to be cautious as the route will be down to a single lane in places. This alternative route will take approximately three extra hours, so people need factor in a longer journey time into their travel plans and ensure that they have plenty of fuel, warm clothes, food and water.
State Highway 7A, giving access to Hanmer Springs from State Highway 7, re-opened at 7am today after being closed overnight due to the risk of further rockfalls. The road is open for light vehicles only, and under escort by contractors. We will reassess this route during the day.
The Transport Agency thanks all road users for being patient as many people’s travel plans are disrupted and many people are again managing their homes, work and lives amidst the aftershocks.
People can call 0800 44 44 49 for updates and the Transport Agency’s website and social media accounts will be also updated as more information is available.
For traffic news visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)
National Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T: 04 894 6285
M: 021 276 3222