21 Dec 2022

Far North gets $86m 'Christmas treat' to fix SH1

11:28 am on 21 December 2022
Waka Kotahi says a temporary track has been cut through this large slip at the southern end of Mangamuka Gorge.

Slips in August closed the Mangamuka Gorge section of SH1 in the Far North. Photo: Supplied / Waka Kotahi

An extra $86 million boost to help fix a storm-damaged section of SH1 at Mangamuka Gorge is a great Christmas present for the Far North, the district's mayor says.

The Transport Agency Waka Kotahi announced the extra $86 million to repair the damaged road, which is in addition to $14m previously approved for the project from emergency work funds.

The combined $100m was expected to be enough to return the Gorge road to its original condition, the agency said.

Far North District Mayor Moko Tepania told Morning Report the extra $86m was "a real Christmas treat for us here in the far North."

The section of State Highway 1 that runs through the Mangamuka Gorge was a vital "life-line" connecting about 20,000 people who live north of the Mangamuka Ranges to the rest of the country, Tepania said. The only two alternative routes had serious existing vulnerabilities and pressures.

"With that closed it does cause extra concern and issues in terms of moving not just people but also goods and services across our district here in the Far North," he said.

The road closed in August after heavy rain caused five major slips at different places under the road, and swept earth across the top of the road in other places.

State Highway One through Mangamuka Gorge has been badly damaged by torrential rain.

Damage to the Mangamuka Gorge section of SH1, in August Photo: RNZ

Tepania had been preparing for a tough battle next year to try to secure funds to fix it.

"When this first happened... Waka Kotahi were talking about what potential managed retreat could look like.

"Our two alternate routes - we've got one through the west coast, which is a local road, and then one through the east coast which is a state highway [SH10], but those are both coastal [roads]. SH10 [the current detour]... whenever we have significant amounts of rain and a high tide that highway itself closes.

"So SH1 through the Mangamukas is our only inland route which connects our district, so that does have to be where we head if we're thinking about the long-term resilience of the transport links for us here in the Far North."

"I really was worried."

A Waka Kotahi map shows the detour route while SH1 through the Mangamuka Gorge is closed.

SH1 traffic has been detoured to SH10 in the Far North, while the road through the Mangamuka Gorge is closed Photo: Supplied / Waka Kotahi

He wanted long-term solutions to strengthen the infrastructure to be considered as part of the project.

"We do need to have permanent solutions, that's part of the conversation here as well - what does it look like to have the road repaired and reopened in the first instance - but what do more resilient options look like?"

Tepania said part of the big picture problem was that big city transport projects sucked up the lion's share of transport funds nationally, while Northlanders were left relying on private vehicles and stretched roading funding.

"We already know that the funding of transport, the funding of roading in our country is flawed," he said.

"We get 69 percent funding assistance rate for roading in the Far North - but it still doesn't go far enough if I'm being honest.

"The private vehicle and our roading links are vital for us up here."

Waka Kotahi said the extra $86m in funds was from the National Land Transport Programme.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs