Arthur’s Pass route daytime closures for two weeks in December for re-surfacing


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will be closing SH73, the Arthur’s Pass route linking the West Coast and Canterbury early in December for around two weeks. The closures will affect daytimes on weekdays, 10 am to 6 pm, Monday* 4 December to Friday 15 December.

(*Please note: Due to poor weather forecast the start date has shifted to Tuesday, 5 December. This will be confirmed on Monday, 4 December)

“Drivers will be able to use SH73 between Otira and Arthur’s Pass village up to 10 am each day and after 6 pm at night, Monday to Friday,” says Mark Pinner, Canterbury/West Coast System Manager, Waka Kotahi.

  • West Coasters will need to be at Otira by 10 am if they are heading east on SH73 and back at Arthur’s Pass after 6 pm to get home.
  • The route will be open over the weekend in the middle – 9 and 10 December.
  • Arthur’s Pass and Otira townships will be accessible at all times from each side of the Main Divide and Waka Kotahi encourages people to continue to visit.
  • The rest of the West Coast remains open for business. Routes north and south along the Coast Road (SH6) are unaffected by this closure.
  • Emergency services will be escorted through the SH73 site as required.

“We know this closure will be unwelcome for many regular road users, businesses along the route and visitors to the West Coast, but this fortnight before the Christmas holidays has the least impact overall, compared to later options, and follows extensive engagement with travel, hospitality and freight operators,” says Mr Pinner.

  • The alternative route linking the two regions is the SH7 route through the Lewis Pass Reefton and Waipara, which adds around an hour to the 3.5 hour journey Greymouth to Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass.*
  • SH73 will be reopened fully each day outside the 10am - 6pm closure which means many people will still be able to make the Christchurch - West Coast link for daytime appointments.

“Our aim is to ensure that the highway remains safe and fit for purpose for many years to come,” says Mr Pinner. “We want to reduce the potential for more frequent short-term delays in the future due to failures in the road surface. It is now starting to crumble in places. This road is constantly under significant stresses from its grade (16%) and the alpine environment with seasonal weather extremes,” says Mr Pinner.

Around 1500 vehicles a day use SH73 on average.

“This will be inconvenient for many people, but we believe this is the shortest and most efficient way to get this key piece of work, both sides of the highway, completed safely and successfully. We thank everyone for building in the extra hour if they need to take the SH7 Lewis Pass route during this time, or if they organise their trip around the closures times. People travelling from Hokitika need to build in an extra hour-and-a-half for the Lewis Pass trip.”

What is happening and where?

Around 342 metres of SH73 above the Rock Shelter below the viaduct on the Otira/West Coast side of the highway needs to be re-surfaced with new asphalt. It was last fully resealed around 12 years ago, with just short-term repairs in more recent years.

  • Drivers waiting for the 6 pm opening will be paused at Arthur’s Pass village and Otira on each side of the Pass, where there is parking and café/ restroom facilities.

The road is narrow in this part of the Otira Gorge – around 7.5 metres guardrail to cliff face on the inside across two lanes. This means the paving and sealing machines fill up the space and do not allow room for traffic to safely pass while work is underway, says Mr Pinner.

The lack of safe working space for the paving crew can be seen in this cross section under the Reid Falls chute, hence the need for the full closure to traffic while this work is underway:

Why can’t you have a midday convoy?

Waka Kotahi consulted on a range of opening times and durations. Stopping the crews and machinery to enable a midday traffic convoy would reduce productivity significantly and more than double the length of time required to do this work, says Mr Pinner. “The people we have spoken to agreed that a shorter timeframe with a more productive working day was preferable to a longer period of time – potentially running right into Christmas or the New Year.”

Why not at night?

Waka Kotahi has to keep the teams doing this work safe while they’re on site and the rockfall risk cannot safely be managed at night when it can’t be seen. 

Why is the work happening in summer/the holiday season?

The asphalt surface being constructed needs a minimum air temperature, which we only get during the warm, summer months.  The work is also weather dependent. “If the crew can’t work due to bad weather, the road will remain open on those days, but it may result in those days being rescheduled for a later date,” says Mr Pinner.

How can I keep up-to-date on this work and the open/shut status of SH73?

  • A project page is being set up for this re-surfacing project. You can ask to be sent updates by emailing in the meantime. We will advertise the project page once it is live.
  • The open/closed status will also be visible on the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner and Traffic and Travel pages where any closures are shown.

The finishing point of the renewal work – the Rockfall Shelter, below the Reid Falls Chute.


The aerial shot shows the lack of room on this part of the Otira Gorge, from Candy’s half-bridge bend to the Rock Shelter, with the steep rock cliff face on one side and the drop into the gorge on the other.


SH73 Peg Leg Creek re-surfacing, also in the Otira Gorge closer to the top of the pass, completed in 2021, just one half of the highway and more room near the cliff face for the crew than the area below it.

Distances/ times comparison Arthur’s Pass/Otira versus Lewis Pass, advice for travellers to get to the road block in time:

  • SH7 Lewis Pass, Greymouth to Christchurch, 322 km, four hours, 30 minutes in normal traffic.
  • SH73 Arthur’s Pass/ Otira Gorge route Greymouth to Christchurch, 245 km, three hours, 30 minutes in normal traffic.
  • For Canterbury people aiming to get to the road block at Arthur’s Pass before 10 am each weekday of closure, they need to allow 2.5 hours from Christchurch. (Leave Christchurch by 7.30 am or earlier, depending on weather.)
  • For people travelling from Greymouth to the road block point at Otira, they need to allow 1.5 hours from Greymouth to make the trip comfortably before 10 am. (Leave Greymouth by 8.30 am or earlier depending on weather).