While the North Island continues to experience record volumes of rainfall, especially in areas such as Northland, Coromandel and the East Coast, the South Island has had ideal conditions for delivery of the annual Waka Kotahi summer state highway maintenance programme.
For South Island road users, this means Waka Kotahi expects to deliver the majority of the planned maintenance programme, says Neil Walker, National Manager Maintenance & Operations at Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
“At the start of the summer renewal season we aimed to reseal or rebuild around 1,000 lane kilometres, or 10% of the state highway network on the South Island. While there is a month to go, we’re confident that we will reach 99% of this target due to good planning, favourable weather conditions and great work on the ground by contractor crews.
“Our West Coast team completed over 130 lane kilometres of resealing before the end of February, and the Coastal Otago network have completed over 150 lane kilometres of resealing this summer.
“We have also completed a significant volume of work on State Highway 6 east of Nelson, including repairs to five underslips. We took the opportunity to build additional resilience into these areas, while also completing other maintenance activities,” Mr Walker says.
The story could not be more different for the North Island, where the majority of the network has been put under major stress by a continued battering from extreme weather. This means contractors are either behind schedule or re-focused onto the recovery from Cyclone Hale, the Auckland Anniversary Floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, the most significant of the weather events this summer.
“Our contractors in Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay are solely focused on responding to the recent weather events, and they will then move into recovery mode in due course,” says Mr Walker.
“Waka Kotahi is working through what recovery will look like in these regions, and across the Upper North Island.
“We know that contractors in these areas are up against it this summer, however they will take every opportunity they can to complete their maintenance programmes as the weather allows. This means that crews for certain types of work are likely to be out on the network into April or May, weather allowing. The more work we do now the less reactive maintenance we’ll need to complete through winter.”
While the summer has been a wet one across the North Island, there have been some rays of sunshine.
“Contractors in some areas were able to start their work programmes early, and those that were able to get off the blocks early have been able to ride the bad weather out. A good example of this is our East Waikato network, which includes the Coromandel region – they still expect to complete their full programme, which is a great achievement in the face of adversity. Our Taranaki network has also completed a significant volume of work, with an early start paying dividends.
“When we reflect on how we have responded to recent weather events, we see time and again that our contractors go above and beyond when it matters most. Their collaboration, determination and selflessness across the board has meant we could quickly restore access in many areas. Some regions have a way to go, and we continue to work at pace to re-connect communities.”
With renewals, response and recovery work set to take place over the coming months, Mr Walker reminds road users that they should anticipate being disrupted by road works, and planning ahead is the key to success.
“The Waka Kotahi Journey Planner shows all active and upcoming road works, and the status of the state highway network. This tool can be used to plan the best way to reach your destination.
“If you do come across a crew working on the road, please be respectful and follow any temporary traffic management signage or instructions from crew members. Safety of both road workers and road users is our highest priority, and we’ll ensure you are on your way as quickly as possible.”