December 8, 2023

Hawke’s Bay residents of Tutira fuming after Waka Kotahi closes SH2 again

It means about 200 people are now effectively living on an island with no road open north or south after Waka Kotahi closed State Highway 2 again.

Residents of Tutira in Hawke’s Bay are fuming after Waka Kotahi closed State Highway 2 again last night.

It means about 200 people are now effectively living on an island with no road open north to Wairoa or south to Napier.

And it could be months until it opens again.

Nearly a month on from Cyclone Gabrielle and State Highway 2 is still in an absolute state.

Until now Tutira residents could use the road – but not anymore after Waka Kotahi closed it last night.

“I think there’s a lot of anger in this community. I think that anger is revolving around access now. It’s a very fragile community, we’ve gone through a huge range of events,” Tutira farmer Paul Harris said.

The road was cordoned off after geotechnical engineers found significant rockfall and landslide risks.

Especially in areas near the Devil’s Elbow where the road cuts right across a large unstable hill face.

“We’re sort of signalling it could be up to three months. This is all subject to weather and the speed at which we can do the clear-up but it’s taken a significant hit so we really feel for the people of Tutira and Putorino and those that are cut off,” said Mark Owen, NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Manager.

From Saturday morning NZTA will be using helicopters to dump large buckets of water on the road to try and dislodge loose debris and rocks that are at risk of falling on traffic.

“Our teams have been working in there but it’s been deemed far too dangerous with what they’ve identified on the upper slopes so we’ve got to get in there sluicing is the next way,” Owen said.

So a local forestry company is building its own road from Tutira to Te Pohue to help residents get access to Napier.

“We need good access. We have stock to go out, there’s animal welfare issues, there’s community issues, we have people that work in town,” Harris said.

Those farmers are now living on a seriously scarred landscape where the hills look like they’re crying after mother nature tore strips from their sides.

On State Highway 5 from Napier to Taupo there are several major washouts and Te Pohue residents are relying on donated supplies.

Supplies that’ll soon be easier to access because Waka Kotahi is expecting State Highway 5 to open by the end of the month.

“They’re working hard to make it safe, and we hope to be able to start platooning freight through there,” Owen said.

That will be good news for companies like Emmersons Transport. It’s currently taking them 13 hours to drive freight from Napier to Gisborne, instead of the usual four.

Clipped: Ian – thousand ” 16 thousand km a day extra 

And it isn’t cheap.

Clipped: Ian – cost ” cost on customers 

Everyone hoping these lifelines can be restored as quickly as possible.

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