As parts of the Central North Island start to dry off ahead of the next big deluge, and others continue to batter strong winds and heavy rain, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is asking people to take care and be aware on the roads these school holidays.
Central North Island Regional Maintenance Manager, Jaclyn Hankin, says like many other parts of the country, the Central North Island has taken a battering from the weather in recent days.
“Our contractors are working incredibly hard to ensure people can move around the region as safely and efficiently as possible these school holidays.
“They have been dealing with high winds and heavy rain resulting in road closures, slips, flooding, downed trees and branches, as well as a significant number of potholes.
“Water does to roads what sugar does to your teeth – it causes our road surfaces to decay and potholes to form. When water penetrates the road surface through cracks, tyre action and weather can quickly turn these cracks into potholes.
“We are seeing a higher than usual number of potholes on our state highways across the Central North Island due to high rainfall.”
Waka Kotahi undertakes regular temporary pothole repairs during winter, followed by permanent repairs in summer when conditions are warm and dry. Repairing potholes, even temporarily, helps ensure the safety of everyone who uses the road.
However, Ms Hankin says, people should be prepared for winter driving conditions and take care.
“We encourage people to drive to the conditions, slow down and maintain a safe following distance between their vehicle and the one in front to maximise their chance of seeing and responding to a pothole in the road. Potholes and other hazards can be harder to see in heavy rain and low light, which are both more prevalent in winter.”
People are advised to take care and remain alert for unreported hazards, such as surface flooding, slips and downed trees or branches.
Some of the sites people are asked to take particular care at if they’re travelling around the region include:
- State Highway 5, between Te Haroto and Tarawera: A section of SH5 between Te Haroto and Tarawera remains down to one lane, with traffic light controlled stop/go in place and a 30km/h temporary speed limit due to a significant underslip alongside the southbound lane.
- Pahiatua Track: Closed due to slips. Unlikely to reopen before tomorrow (Thursday 14 July) afternoon.
- Saddle Road: Daytime closures on the Saddle Road had been scheduled for maintenance works. These have been postponed and the road remains open for today and tomorrow, while the detour route via the Pahiatua Track is closed.
- State Highway 4: People are asked to remain aware for unreported hazards, such as fallen rocks and branches.
- State Highway 56, Opiki: Closed due to flooding, likely to be closed into tomorrow (Thursday 14 July). Detour for northbound traffic is via Tane Road and State Highway 57. For southbound traffic, the detour is via Alve Road or Rangioutu Road and State Highway 1.
- There are numerous small slips and trees down across the Tairawhiti state highway network. They have been removed back past the edge line, to allow traffic past but will require follow-up work over the next two weeks to remove from the road shoulders.
- SH35 Tokomaru Bay - Busby’s Hill: Slip material has come down over the concrete mass blocks (currently retaining the slope), partially blocking the northbound Lane. There is a crew on site clearing the slips today, however it is likely to take a couple of days to clear the slip material off the road and the bank behind the blocks.
- SH35 Kopuaroa Hill – The active subsidence site north of Kopuaroa dropped over night. There is a crew on site today and they are expected to reinstate the road to its previous level of service – single lane, unsealed – by the end of today.
- SH35 Hospital Hill, Te Araroa: A slip is partially blocking one lane. Contractors are on site but are currently unable to clear the material off the road. The hill side is saturated and material keeps falling as they are clearing the site.
- State Highway 3: Following the most recent heavy rainfall, there are lots of potholes on SH3. Regular patrols of the network to repair potholes are ongoing during both night and day shifts, so please keep an eye out for our crews and drive to the conditions.
- State Highway 3, Awakino Gorge: On Tuesday 14 June, the heavy rainfall also caused a large under slip on State Highway 3, south of Awakau Road in the Awakino Gorge, causing damage to the road pavement as well as nearby guardrails, fences and drainage. The area is currently under traffic light stop/go with delays of approximately 5-10 minutes and Downer crews are monitoring the site 24/7 to ensure the safety of road users.
- State Highway 4, Taumarunui: On Friday 3 June, State Highway 4 was closed between the intersections of State Highway 43 and Okahukura Bridge Road, after a collapsed culvert created a large hole on the side of the road. The road has since been reinstated to one lane under traffic light stop/go with delays of approximately 5-10 minutes.
The rest of State Highway 4 north of Taumarunui has also been impacted by the severe weather, with a number of slips and potholes on the highway. Please drive to the conditions and keep an eye out for our crews when travelling in the area.
Investigations are ongoing to confirm long term solutions to address the collapsed culvert on SH4 and the under slip on SH3. Solutions are likely to be complex and will require several months to implement due to the high level of damage at both sites.
With more heavy rain and high winds forecast for parts of the Central North Island over the next week, Ms Hankin encourages people to avoid unnecessary travel and, if they must travel, to expect the unexpected and remain alert.
“Drive to the conditions, view the latest weather forecast on the MetService website and check your intended route for hazards or disruptions before setting out using the Waka Kotahi interactive Journey Planner website or the Waka Kotahi social media pages for the latest information.”
Ms Hankin says people can help by reporting any potholes, slips, flooding and downed trees by calling 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).
She also asks drivers to be mindful of contractors who could be out clearing hazards off the road, and drive slowly through work sites.
“Please be kind and respectful to roadworkers who are working long hours in all weather conditions to help ensure everyone can get where they’re going safely.
“Stay safe and stay alert.”
Winter driving tips
- Check weather and travel conditions on highways before you start your trip and on breaks throughout your journey - use Journey Planner or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).
- Ensure your car is safe and equipped: spare tyre, warrant of fitness up-to-date, lights, brakes and wind-wipers all working, clean windscreen inside and out, check tyre treads to ensure good grip.
- If you are travelling long distances, share the driving and have regular breaks.
- Wear your seat belt throughout the journey and check your passengers have theirs clicked in too.
- Driving on roads that are exposed to snow and ice can be treacherous, so slow down and drive to the conditions, not the allowable/legal speed limit. Increase the following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
- Be prepared when travelling in case of delays on the road, particularly in alpine conditions. Make sure you have warm clothes/food/water/charged mobile phone. In an emergency, phone 111. Bear in mind some parts of the highway have no cell coverage.
- Learn about winter driving, including how to get your vehicle ready and if you are driving in an area where chains may be needed, practise putting them on before you go so you are not caught out.
Winter driving tips
Flooding on State Highway 56 at Opiki.
Flooding on State Highway 43, Tahora Saddle.
Slip on State Highway 43.