Vet nurse quits after damage to SH1 leaves her with ‘unsafe’ three-hour commute

A Northland veterinary nurse is resigning after a State Highway 1 closure increased her commute and redirected her along roads she felt “unsafe” on.

August heavy rain caused significant slips along Mangamuka Gorge, just south of Kaitāia. There is no timeline for when it will reopen.

The continued closure has slapped an extra hour onto 51-year-old Hinewai Kellner’s​ daily commute from Kaitaia to Kerikeri.

“I’m having to let go of my job – because I’m now travelling three hours a day and I can’t keep doing it,” she said.

* State Highway 1 to Kaitaia opens a year after devastating Northland floods
* Northland flooding: $37m worth of damage to homes, land and vehicles
* Northland flooding: Mangamuka community ‘cut in half’ as road closure drags on

The new route takes Kellner through State Highway 10, which she said “feels like a risk”.

“State Highway 10 is hectic – the trucks, the traffic is crazy, people drive crazy. It’s nothing like my drive used to be,” she said.

Kellner said she’s seen more and more cars on SH10 since the August slips.

“The roads have got more busy. When I made the decision to resign, I thought it’s not even summer, It’s going to get even busier,” she said.

Mangamuka Gorge, just south of Kaitāia, was closed for the second time after a storm on August 18 and 19 in 2022 (File photo).

Waka Kotahi/Supplied

Mangamuka Gorge, just south of Kaitāia, was closed for the second time after a storm on August 18 and 19 in 2022 (File photo).

The extra commute time and the change of roads were one thing, but not knowing when SH1 would re-open was the last nail in the coffin for Kellner.

“There’s nothing stating when or if it will open – we don’t know.”

Her employer, Kerikeri Highway Vets, posted on social media about its new vacancy for another experienced vet nurse on October 24.

“One of our nurses is having a three-hour commute every day and that is just too much,” the post said.

This is not the first time weather has closed large segments of State Highway 1.

A one-in-500-year storm in July 2020 closed the same stretch of road for a year, with slip repairs costing $16.2 million to fix.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency regional manager Randhir Karma​ previously told Stuff the August slips were much worse than damage caused by bad weather in June 2020.

Karma said work would be accelerated for the project and they would also be thorough to achieve a state highway north that can withstand severe weather.

“Though we don’t yet have all the answers, by working together with key Far North community members and experts, we are confident that together we will deliver a solution that will strengthen and benefit the region for generations to come.”

Kellner is worried the road will take over a year to repair.

“I made my mind up [to quit] after the first month of it being closed. I’m unsure if they are going to open at all,” she said.

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