Kaikōura locals delighted as inland road reopens

1:38 pm on 20 December 2016

A bit bumpy, a bit hairy, but pretty much your typical country drive.

That is how people who drove up the inland road to Kaikōura yesterday described the journey.

Inland road opened today.

A good sign for Kaikōura locals. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Restricted access has now been lifted for the first time since the November quake and locals believe it could make a world of difference.

Crews have been working feverishly to repair slips and create a diversion in a particularly difficult section near Mt Lyford.

Chris Robinson is a shepherd who works on a farm off the Inland Kaikōura Road and drove into town yesterday.

Shepard who lives on the inland route.

Chris Robinson Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"The road today is actually wicked - when the quake happened it was pretty rough but they've done a lot to it."

He said the damage was still very visible.

"You can still see the evidence of where the land has come down and the slips and where they've patched it all up.

"But the crews have done a marvellous job and hopefully it will bring a few people into town."

Heading into what was supposed to be a bumper Christmas period, that is the thing on everyone's minds.

Kaikōura was eerily quiet yesterday - a far cry from a few weeks ago when the town was teeming with emergency service workers and stranded tourists.

Kim and Coral, who are visitors to New Zealand from London, also drove up the road yesterday.

First tourists through the Inland Route.

First tourists through the Inland Route - Coral and Kim. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"We didn't even know the road was closed and someone told us we were the first tourists to use it, and we were like 'oh?'," said Coral.

"It took us ages to get here and even when we rolled into town our petrol tank was on red," said Kim.

"We literally rolled into town."

The town may be quiet as a mouse but they are still impressed.

"It looks beautiful and the weather is great - we were just on the West Coast and it was a bit cold and wet ... just the colour of the water here, we've never seen anything like it," said Kim.

Colette Cargill runs Little Rock - a shop on the main drag that sells clothing and gifts and other knick-knacks.

She, like everyone in Kaikōura, is stoked the road is open.

"Some of the pressure is starting to lift a wee bit but we're still a bit worried about the future," she said.

Her shop was paid a surprising visit yesterday.

"I had a lady come in who had driven all the way up from Christchurch just to do some shopping in Kaikōura, which was magic."

Some more good news is State Highway 1 south of Kaikōura is expected to re-open this week.

"It's amazing and all they have to do now is get the marina going and Kaikōura will be back on its feet," said Ms Cargill.

To round off the good news - a ban on the rock lobster fishery is being lifted after a review found stocks had not been severely reduced.

People are still being warned to fish for only what they need when the fishery is reopened this afternoon.

The daily bag limit for recreational fishers in Kaikoura is six.

Shellfish like paua did not fare as well last month, and cannot be gathered until at least February.

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