15 Jun 2023

Hikuwai bridge reopens but locals still fear being cut-off

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 15 June 2023
Hikuwai River No1 Bridge Collapse

The Hikuwai No.1 Bridge between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay was washed out during Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: Liam Clayton / Gisborne Herald

Four months after Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread damage to infrastructure around the North Island, a crucial link on the East Coast's State Highway 35 has been reconnected today with the opening of the Hikuwai Bailey Bridge. 

The bridge connects Gisborne and Tolaga Bay with the rest of the East Coast, including Tokumaru Bay, Ruatoria and the East Cape. It's a major step in Tairawhiti's recovery after the cyclone, but stretches of the state highway are still vulnerable, and residents fear they're just another big storm away from being cut off yet again.

Some people have had to change doctors and other health care from Gisborne to Whakatane as roads have become too unreliable.

Kathryn speaks with Jaclyn Hankin, Waka Kotahi NZTA's regional manager of maintenance and operations for the Central North Island and Mahanga Maru, a Ruatoria local and owner of Air Ruatoria. 

Hikuwai Bridge

Photo: Google Maps