24 May 2017

Kaikōura quake strengthens case for West Coast to Nelson link - mayor

9:01 pm on 24 May 2017

The Kaikōura earthquake has bolstered the argument for a new road linking the West Coast to the Nelson region, the mayor of Buller District says.

Freight truck on SH63.

SH63 has become the de facto main route connecting Marlborough and Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The Buller District Council agreed in late 2015 to push ahead with an investigation into a proposed 56km road from Karamea to Tapawera, which would cross through part of Kahurangi National Park.

Mayor Garry Howard said engineering research firm Beca was heading a preliminary feasibility study with input from the council and the Transport Agency.

"It's really highlighted the issue about resilience and it's one of the factors about why you should have a northern-link exit for the West Coast, but it's got to be built around a very sound business case."

He said the risks to the Coast in a big quake were high, and a northern exit could improve the region's resilience.

The proposed route would cut the road journey from Karamea to Nelson by almost half, but the idea has drawn criticism from environmental groups because of the fragile terrain the road would cross.

The study is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

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