Severe weather has caused yet another slip on Northland’s main route to Auckland, while a long-term replacement for the failing highway remains up in the air.
State Highway 1 is open in both directions between Whangārei and Auckland, but motorists are asked to drive with care through the Brynderwyn Hills due to ongoing slip work.
The Brynderwyns, about 50km south of Whangārei, is an unreliable link between Northland and the rest of the country.
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During closures, light traffic had been diverted through the villages of Mangawhai and Waipū, while heavy trucks have had to make a 130km detour through Dargaville.
Continued wet weather has created a new slip – a minor underslip, where the ground beneath the road gives way – a Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) spokesperson said.
“The road remains open in both directions however it is still an active work site. We ask motorists to slow down and drive to the conditions to keep our crews safe.”
Crews also continue to work on other, bigger slips caused during the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, with stormwater drainage being upgraded at the same time, the spokesperson said.
The continued closures are testing the resilience of Te Tai Tokerau businesses, Northland Inc chief executive Paul Linton said.
“We have a primary industry that’s under stress and, when you think about it, just getting their goods to Auckland is not only stretching their logistics but also their income.
“Also goods and services coming north is impacted.”
The closures and uncertainty can also put off visitors coming into Northland, where tourism contributes 4.4% to the region’s economy.
With the Northland Auckland Rail Line also closed by slips, Linton said SH1 is the lifeblood of the region.
Transport Minister David Parker agreed SH1 is a “critical link” for communities in Northland.
As of May 2023, Waka Kotahi has spent at least $17m to reopen and stabilise state highways in Northland.
Parker said Waka Kotahi is investigating options which support the long-term resilience of the entire network in Northland.
A business case for a Te Hana to Whangārei highway, including bypass of the Brynderwyns, is expected to take 18 months to complete, he said.
A four-lane upgrade to the highway south of Whangārei was first announced by the National-led Government in 2017.