A section of SH35 near the Motu River Bridge north of Maraenui is cracking along the eastbound lane and the section is under stop/go traffic management. Over-weight and over-sized vehicles can’t use this route until further notice. Waka Kotahi is keeping a close watch on the situation and if cracking develops further, the road may need to be closed at short notice.
A slip has also occurred at Waikawa Bridge between Te Kaha and Waihau Bay and the road is down to one lane under priority give way.
In response to this situation, Ōpōtiki Civil Defence has activated their Emergency Operations Centre to keep a close eye on the situation and to ensure that there is a coordinated, local response and planning.
Ōpōtiki Civil Defence Controller, Gerard McCormack, said that the current heavy rain that is expected for a couple of days is likely to worsen the situation.
“At the moment, light vehicles can come and go, although we support Te Whānau a Apanui calls for only necessary travel so that essential services can move more quickly and avoid more stress on the road.
“However, river levels are likely to stay high, putting more stress on that section. Waka Kotahi is keeping a very close eye on the area and they have trucks on site to put rocks in place to lessen the impact of the high water levels. But if the cracks worsen, we can expect a full road closure between Ōpōtiki and several of our Coast communities.
“We want to make sure that we are ready for this possibility, and we have kicked off a few meetings with the right agencies. Te Whānau a Apanui have activated their emergency response plan, Hauora a Toi are working through what it will mean for medical and health needs, we have arranged deliveries of food and other supplies to Te Kaha while the road is still partially open so that people won’t be caught short. We’ll keep everyone updated as we know more,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack said that the implications of a closure would be felt for a significant period of time, as any road repair would likely take weeks or months, not days. With the added difficulty of possible closures, slips and issues in other places along the Coast route, planning was a priority.
“To be fair to the communities up the Coast, they are very resilient and unfortunately accustomed to periods of time when travel is long or not possible. But such a repair in that location would be a huge job and Waka Kotahi are working on time estimates for that work.
“There are no detours possible on that section of road and the ‘alternative route’ would require travel around the entire East Cape to Gisborne, a four-hour trip one-way in good conditions. In addition, the road from Ōpōtiki to Gisborne along SH2 is prone to regular road closures and is currently down to one lane due to a undercut of the road near Matawai.
“We will make sure we keep everyone informed as we know more. People should stay up to date and make sure they check the Waka Kotahi website before travelling, drive to the conditions and take extra care in the area,” Mr McCormack said.