Storm damage to highways across the upper North Island will not stop a promised fix to State Highway 1 in the Far North, Waka Kotahi says.
The main route to Kaitāia has been closed at Mangamuka Gorge since flooding in August caused multiple slips – the second time the gorge suffered a major failure since 2020.
While abandoning the route was one option, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency agreed to fund $100m to fix the slips in December.
A number of Kaitāia residents were concerned Auckland’s flooding, and slips in Coromandel and Northland’s Brynderwyn Hills, would divert the funding.
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But Waka Kotahi project director Norman Collier said the Mangamuka slip repair was still full steam ahead.
“Over the past couple of months, Waka Kotahi has been carrying out emergency work to protect the road from further damage, as well as work on SH10 to ensure the official detour route is operating as efficiently as possible,” he said.
Protection work carried out last year helped protect the road from further slips during the bad weather, Waka Kotahi said in an update to the community.
Kaitāia Business Association’s Andrea Panther said knowing the repair money had been set aside was reassuring, as people were getting impatient.
“There’s been lots of negative talk on social media about the slips in Coromandel and Brynderwyns [taking the funding],” she said.
The long-running closure of the highway was costing both residents and businesses, with the detour adding 30 to 60 minutes to a trip between Kaitāia and further south.
“We desperately need it to open because it’s costing so much money up here.”
Panther was concerned there would not be enough funds if the gorge fix cost more than the $100m allocated.
Collier said the timeline for reopening Mungamuka Gorge should be known by March.
The next step was for contractors to stablise the road by installing piles, so the heavy machinery can be brought in and safely used, he said.
SH1 between Auckland and Whangārei to remain closed
Meanwhile, SH1 at Northland’s Brynderwyn Hills is “very unlikely” to reopen before the weekend, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said on Thursday.
The highway has been closed due to slips since Friday and an attempt to reopen one lane on Wednesday afternoon lasted just 30 minutes before another slip came down and closed the road again.
The corridor will be in demand for Waitangi Weekend but Waka Kotahi’s Jacqui Hori-Hoult said it was not safe or appropriate to reopen the highway yet.
“We will continue to keep people updated as these assessments progress, which will inform when we can open the road safely. With recurring slips, we don’t anticipate this to be in time for the long weekend,” she said.
Detours will remain in place for light vehicles via Mangawhai and Waipū, and for heavy vehicles via SH12 and SH14.