2 Dec 2019

NZTA spends millions on repairing storm-damaged state highways

3:41 pm on 2 December 2019

The New Zealand Transport Agency has spent more than $150 million on emergency repairs to damaged highways over the past two years.

Takaka Hill slips

The road over the Takaka Hill in the Tasman District is in this image from early 2018, but it's buried beneath debris from slips Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

Information provided to the Minister of Transport showed that most of it was the result of four cyclones hitting the country within a short timeframe.

Cyclones Cook and Debbie struck in April 2017 and less than a year later, Fehi and Gita arrived.

Those four storms alone led to more than $61m of emergency works to state highways in the 2017-18 financial year, and about $39m this year.

An NZTA manager said in a ministerial briefing note that emergency works funding covered adverse weather events, but not "extraordinary" events like the Kaikōura earthquake, where the scale of damage was significant.

Figures in the briefing showed the emergency works spend had more than doubled from $36m in 2014-15 to almost $79m in 2017-18.

It reached just over $72m in the last financial year.

Traffic on State Highway 6 between Nelson and Christchurch is being diverted due to a series of large slips north of Murchison.

A recent slip blocking State Highway 6 between Nelson and Christchurch, north of Murchison. Photo: SUPPLIED / NZTA

NZTA said damage caused by the four cyclones resulted in nine projects in the Manawatū-Whanganui, West Coast, Canterbury, Waikato, Tasman and Northland regions.

About $20m has been provided by the NZTA for the entire Takaka Hill emergency response and recovery project, which included around $12m for repairs to the five last major sites scheduled for this summer.

Work has been ongoing since heavy rain associated with an ex-tropical storm in early 2018 triggered large slips on the only road access to and from Golden Bay. Since the storm, access over the hill to Golden Bay has had one-way sections controlled by traffic signals.

More than $7.5m has already been spent on work to repair the highway, with the remainder budgeted for the final repairs.

A contract has just been awarded to construction company Downer.

The agency's project manager for Takaka Hill, Chris Robertson, said Downer would now carry out planning and preparation work before rolling out the heavy machinery.

"This will help speed up the construction process and reduce unnecessary disruption.

"By completing planning and design up-front, it means construction can continue without requiring significant road closures or major changes for Takaka Hill road-users," Mr Robertson said.

He said the remaining five sites were all "significant pieces of work" with geotechnical risks.

Mr Robertson said work would stop over Christmas and New Year to reduce any impact on travel times, Mr Robertson noted.

Traffic lights would remain in place for the duration of the repair work, including the holiday period, with the traffic signal system being extended further uphill to include all five major sites once construction started.

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