7 Nov 2019

Slip blocking state highway leads to loss of profits and businesses 'suffering'

9:55 pm on 7 November 2019

The mayor of Greymouth is seeking government money to support businesses that have been left struggling since a major road closed.

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The slip across State Highway 7 at Omoto occurred in early October. Photo: Supplied / NZTA

State Highway 7 between Greymouth and Reefton has been closed at Omoto because of a road slip that happened in early October.

Mayor Tania Gibson said the closure led to a noticeable drop in visitors in the town, which has hit businesses hard.

"It's been a huge strain on the community. The businesses on the Kaiata and Dobson side of the slip are really suffering," she said.

"A lot of those businesses are 50 percent down [in profits] yet their costs have gone up because of freight, some of the couriers aren't going around, or if they are they charging quite a lot to go around."

Ms Gibson said she had been in talks with the government for a couple of weeks to figure out how they could come together to support businesses.

Among those who have been dealing with the financial impact is Dobson Challenge service station manager Taranjeet Singh.

The closure of the highway, which is two kilometres up the road from his store, had led to a 50 percent drop in profits compared to the same period last year, he said.

"It's been really bad, we are descending in sales every week [since] the road hasn't been opened."

His situation was not helped by the detour sign that had been set up in Stillwater, which only allowed residents to continue along SH7 to Dobson, he said.

Mr Singh is holding out though, as he hopes the road will be reopened in time for him to catch the summer tourists making their way to and from the coast.

Infrastructure issues

Ms Gibson said infrastructure was suffering as well as profits.

The diversions that had been put in place had put pressure on a road that was not designed to cope with the newfound demand, she said.

"The [Taylorville] road itself is suffering because it was up for resealing itself, so that obviously can't be done until after [the slip is cleared] because we can't afford the disruptions."

The narrow road was known for accidents, she said.

KiwiRail general manager of operations Jeanie Benson said the slip at Omoto was particularly complex due to the ground water that has been running underneath it.

Workers were carrying out drainage drilling at the slip, she said.

"The idea around the drilling is to de-water and stabilise the slip, so that we can get rid of the water underneath the ground and stabilise it."

By 18 November they would know whether the drilling had worked, and if it had, the slip could be cleared as soon as possible, she said.

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