All access pass for SH5: Critical Hawke's Bay connection to reopen to all traffic from Monday


Waka Kotahi has announced that State Highway 5 will re-open to all traffic during daylight hours from Monday 20 March, following the successful running of freight convoys on the route this week.

The re-opening of the route will drastically reduce current trip times between Napier and Taupō. Since Cyclone Gabrielle devastated Hawke's Bay last month, the normally 1h 40 min journey has turned into a five hour trip, with drivers forced to travel south as far as Woodville, near Palmerston North, before heading back up the island for around 250km to get to Taupō.

Waka Kotahi says all that will change from Monday, when State Highway 5 reopens to all traffic between 7am and 7pm each day, with closure points at SH2 (Kaimata Road), Glengarry Road and Matea Road overnight.

Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin says contractors have been working hard at both the Napier and Taupō ends of the highway to get the road to the point where it can be safely reopened to the public.

"These people have worked tirelessly, with a single goal in mind – returning the road as quickly as possible to a condition where it can be safely used by everyone who relies on this key connection.

“The community has also been instrumental in helping get us to this point, and we thank them for their assistance and patience in getting to this milestone."

Ms Hankin says ensuring the safety of everyone who uses SH5 and the crews that continue work to repair the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle is the highest priority for Waka Kotahi.

"The road is safe to use, but there is still a lot of work to do. The road will not look anything like what it did before Cyclone Gabrielle, and people should not expect it to. This will be a long-term fix. There are 32 damaged sites along the route, ranging from minor dropouts to significant underslips and washouts.

"It is absolutely critical that people adhere to all temporary speed limits, follow the directions of traffic management staff and signs, be patient with other road users and our crews on the ground, and take care."

There will be a Police presence to help manage driver behaviour and keep everyone safe. Water trucks will also be in use to suppress dust and mitigate the risk of dust exposure for the communities living along the road.

Additional road closures will be required as part of our scheduled road renewal programme. These are expected to take place within the next two weeks and will be single-day closures.

The road may also need to close at short notice in the case of any deterioration, poor weather or if people are not adhering to traffic management and temporary speed limits.

For now, Ms Hankin says, it's a great feeling to have the road reopened to traffic.

"We know how much connections like SH5 mean, not only to the people who live and work alongside them or who rely on them for access to employment, healthcare, essential goods and services and social opportunities, but also for moving critical freight and supplies around the country and into areas like Hawke's Bay that have been hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Restoring these connections is critical to provide resilient and safe access for our farming, horticulture and tourism sectors to connect with local and export markets,” Ms Hankin says.

"It wouldn't have been possible to get to this point as quickly as we have without the support of so many people and organisations.

"In particular, the patience and resilience of those who live alongside SH5 between Napier and Taupō has been incredible and we're just really thrilled to be able reopen the road for them - to reconnect them with friends and whanau, to ensure they can access necessary goods and services, such as food and healthcare, get their kids to school, return to work and run businesses."