Abandoned campervans to be driven out of Kaikōura

10:00 pm on 4 December 2016

More than 300 rental vehicles and tourist buses left abandoned in Kaikōura after the earthquake will start being driven out of the town tomorrow morning.

Dozens of people wait to be allowed to travel out of Kaikoura on the inland route.

Hundreds of campervans, cars and coaches were left behind in Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The campervans, cars and coaches, owned by about 15 companies, were left behind when visitors were evacuated from Kaikōura in the days following the earthquake on 14 November.

The first convoy of 80 vehicles will travel from the town tomorrow.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa has been working with the operators, the Rental Vehicle Association, Civil Defence and the New Zealand Transport Agency to coordinate removal of the vehicles.

"Many rental vehicle operators provided replacement vehicles so customers could continue their holidays. Now they are keen to get these vehicles out of Kaikōura to meet booking commitments," Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts said.

Having vehicles stuck there had been a major headache for some of the smaller operators, he said, but the priority was to ensure the local community had priority access to the road and the rental car convoy did not get in the way of more pressing needs.

"Vehicles are being prioritised on a pro rata basis depending on how many vehicles each operator has in Kaikōura. We're hoping to get all the vehicles out of Kaikōura by the end of next week."

A number of locals had volunteered to help drive the vehicles out, along with members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, who would travel into the town to drive the vehicles to Christchurch.

Drivers would be given comprehensive health and safety briefings before they joined the convoy.

The number of vehicles left in Kaikōura highlighted the importance of tourism to the town, Mr Roberts said.

A working group of tourism industry leaders met for the first time on Friday to guide the coordination of the industry and government tourism response to the earthquake, he said.

The Kaikōura Earthquake Tourism Action Group will meet regularly over the summer to monitor the actions being undertaken, identify any gaps in the response and act as required.

"Not only Kaikōura, but the surrounding South Island regions of Marlborough, Nelson, Christchurch and the West Coast are seeing impacts from the earthquake itself or from the changes in road access. Wellington has also been affected.

"[The association] is keen to support its members in these regions and around the country to ensure that tourism continues to grow its contribution to our economy," Mr Roberts said.

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