Sightseers not welcome when quake damaged road reopens

CLOSED: Slips and damage closed the after the November earthquake . . PHOTO: NZTA.

For the first time in over a year, travellers will be able to drive the coastal highway route between Christchurch and Picton next Friday

But the NZ Transport Agency says sightseers should stay away and save their trip for another day.

“While we understand people across New Zealand will be interested in seeing the work that’s been done to the highway, the opening day and the following week will not be the best time to travel the route to view the construction activity which is still underway,” said NZTA earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow.

“It’s a unique situation which makes it difficult to project exact traffic volumes but we expect the road to be very busy.

“We want to ensure we can keep traffic moving through local communities safely, and allow people to reach Kaikoura and other destinations as easily as possible,” he said.

State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura will open during the afternoon, connecting the coastal corridor for the first time since the road was closed by massive slips triggered by a magnitude-7.8 quake in November 2016.

There will be a community event in Kaikoura at 8am that day to thank locals for their support and celebrate the re-opening.

Road crews will be working until the last minute to get the road ready and trucks and equipment will be being moved off site on 15 December before the road re-opens.

State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura will re-open on Friday 15 December at 7am as usual.

The alternate inland route (via Lewis Pass) between Christchurch and Picton will also be open.

When the road north of Kaikoura will be open from the next Friday, several sites will still be under construction.

There will still be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures, speed restrictions and stop/go traffic controls.

There will also be delays at key spots along the route:

  • Ohau Point has a new seawall and road realignment.
  • Irongate has a new overbridge and road realignment.
  • Between Goose Bay and Peketa there is ongoing cliff face resilience and road rebuilding work.

Mr Crow said anyone planning a trip should allow plenty of time to get to their destination safely in case of unexpected delays and check real-time travel information.

Electronic signs displaying real-time information will also be positioned along SH1.

Two areas on SH1 will be closed overnight as a safety precaution.

Anyone travelling through will need to allow enough time to clear these areas before they shut at 8.30pm.

The section north of Kaikoura which will be closed at night is between Clarence and Mangamaunu.

South of Kaikoura the night closure will be between Goose Bay and Peketa. Both areas will re-open each day at 7am once crews have completed a safety check.

Most vehicles can use SH1 when it re-opens, including cars, motorcyclists, campervans, cyclists, buses and coaches, and trucks (although restrictions apply on height and weight).