3 Mar 2023

Public access to Karekare roads may be 'more than a year' away - Auckland Transport

9:02 pm on 3 March 2023
Karekare locals with the aid of officials started clearing blocked roads after Cyclone Gabrielle.

The only two access roads into Karekare have suffered catastrophic damage. Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

Some West Coast beaches like Karekare may not be accessible to the public for more than a year.

Auckland Transport Chief Engineer Murray Burt told Checkpoint they are urging the general public to stay away from the beaches of Karekare, Piha and Muriwai, as roads are still delicate.

"It could be more than a year before we get things back to the way that they were" on roads like Lone Kauri Rd at Karekare, Burt said.

Geotechnical assessments of the roads were done this week, he said.

"The slips are quite horrendous in some sections of the road and there will be parts of Lone Kauri Road which we'll have to keep closed but we'll be able to open Karekare Road for resident access in the coming weeks.

"There will be single lane access on damaged roads for Karekare residents in about two weeks, but hopefully the work may be completed sooner.

"It will be single lane access through these tight spots .... It will be quite constrained access but it will be able to be officially opened for the residents down there."

Residents around Karekare, Piha and Muriwai have been largely cut off since Cyclone Gabrielle, but while some limited road access to Piha and Muriwai has been managed, Karekare has been so completely isolated that helicopters have had to drop emergency supplies to residents.

Around 25 households and maybe more are still living in the area, Burt said.

Power was lost for more than two weeks and nearly a dozen houses have been red-stickered, with many more damaged.

Houses came toppling down in Karekare after 16 slips in the area due to Cyclone Gabrielle.

Many homes and baches were destroyed at Karekare. Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

The roads themselves will take a very long time to repair, Burt said.

"To restore the road to its original condition is a major job.

"That will require a lot more geotechnical investigations, design work for building retaining walls and other security measures to secure the slopes.

"That will definitely be months work of work and the number of slips that are down on Lone Kauri and Karekare Road, it could even be more than a year until we can get things back to the way they were."

"Some of the slips that I've had a look at today you would have to secure the first one before moving on to the second one."

This morning, Burt told Morning Report the damage to Karekare's two access roads was severe.

"Karekare Road was one of the hardest hit areas on the west coast.

"There's 15 major slip sites across it. In some areas the road has narrowed right down to less than two metres with a vertical sheer drop on one side and unstable material on the up side."

Although some residents have reportedly managed the route using four-wheel drive, Burt said the council is definitely not encouraging it.

"It's definitely not recommended that anybody traverses the road."

More than 30 Auckland roads are still closed following back to back to extreme weather events including the anniversary weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.

That is down from a peak of 120 roads closed and 1300 slips around the region.

The slip on Scenic Drive named 'Elevation Slip' for the nearby restaurant has been reopened to a single lane for light traffic, which will help the Piha community that has had to take a lengthy detour by Bethells Beach.

Burt said the unstable status of the roads and uncertainty of the weather in the future means they could close again at the drop of a hat.

"We don't know what happens when a major weather event comes through and so we'd have to reassess at that point.

"The clear message is for all the communities of Karekare, Piha and Muriwai is that general public should stay away and things are still very delicate and it's really for residents only at this point in time."

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