Heavy vehicles with trailers are not able to access State Highway 35 at Kopuaroa.
The road remains open to all other traffic, including heavy vehicles without trailers.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency advises that heavy vehicles with trailers will need to turn around at Ruatoria and Te Puia Springs.
National Emergency Response Manager Mark Owen says the road is not safe for heavy vehicles with trailers due to the risk of truck roll-overs, narrow lane width and extremely narrow and tight approach.
“There is a significant drop on one side of the road and we can see from tyre tracks that due to the tightness of the corners, long vehicles in particular are coming incredibly close to the drop off,” says Mark.
“We have a plan in place to sure up the road, ahead of a more long-term fix, but this requires a safe work environment for our road workers. We will not put them at risk.
“We are currently hoping to reopen the road to heavy vehicles with trailers by the end of this week, noting more heavy rain is expected early this week. However, our teams are working hard to make the most of any opportunity to have access restored sooner and we will provide an update early this week.”
Mark says Waka Kotahi understands the significance of the restriction on heavy vehicles with trailers and together with its contractors, is working hard to limit the impact as much as possible.
“We appreciate how important these connections are to communities on the East Coast – to access necessary services, such as food and healthcare, to get kids to school, to run businesses and to stay in touch with friends and whanau.
“We also know it’s not easy for people living and working along SH35 at the moment, and we appreciate everyone’s patience. However, anything that endangers the safety of our road workers is unacceptable.
“We have had threats from people to ignore the restrictions and our traffic management. I want to be very clear that this puts not only their lives in danger, but also the lives of the people working to get the road usable for everyone again as soon as possible.
“Many of the people working on the road live on the coast. They want to see the road fixed as much as the people making these threats do. They are out there working hard, doing long days to get it done and they deserve to feel safe while they go about their work, and to return home safely to their loved ones at the end of the day. Anything less will not be tolerable.”
If heavy vehicles with trailers continue to use the site, despite the restrictions, Waka Kotahi may be forced to increase restrictions, which could include closures. There is also a risk that they could compromise the road, requiring it to be closed for a long period of time to fix.
Waka Kotahi is also able to undertake regulatory enforcement against those who disregard the restrictions in place.
“If we feel there is a risk to the safety of road users or our contractors, we won’t hesitate to take action. Safety is our top priority.”
Mark says the current situation has also seen the best of the East Coast come to the fore.
“We’ve had offers equipment, labour and materials to help and we’re currently working our way through these to see how we might make the most of the help that’s been offered.
“In the meantime, we encourage everyone to avoid unnecessary travel, take care, be patient and look out for everyone on the road, including our road workers.”
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