Canterbury inland road reopens – backlog of traffic very slow journey; slip clearance South Westland, SH6 update 4.45 pm


Canterbury’s Upper Rangitata inland road, Route 72, linking Timaru and Ashburton reopened around midday today. It quickly filled with waiting traffic, with significant delays around the single lane Upper Orari Bridge and rural gridlock for several kilometres.

Drivers had been delayed on both sides of the Rangitata River since Saturday when the river broke out of its stopbanks flooding Route 72 and SH1 closer to the coast.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency asks all drivers to be patient as they travel this route tonight and tomorrow and be ready for a slower journey over the Upper Orari Bridge.

map showing area of traffic gridlock on SH72 around Upper Orari and Arundel bridges

Google maps live traffic gridlock (red line) around the Upper Orari and the Arundel bridges, South Canterbury, after 2 pm today

  • Speed restrictions will be in place on Route 72. Travel times would be significantly longer today given the backlogs but should improve tomorrow. Travellers should add at least an extra hour to their travel times and expect delays.
  • There will be localised detours in place from Orari where there is a single lane bridge. Police will be present along the route.

State Highway 1, Rangitata Bridge, not open tonight

State Highway 1 over the Rangitata River bridge will stay closed tonight and overnight. It will be reassessed in the morning once floodwaters have receded and the highway is more visible, says Pete Connors, System Manager for the Transport Agency. Work to redirect and drain some major stopbank breaches is underway.

 SH6, South Westland – top and bottom access for all traffic, progress this week at each end

In South Westland, crews are clearing multiple slips from daylight to dusk in several places.

“The area around Whataroa at Mt Hercules is where we have the most slips, and we are aiming to have this last section of the highway reconnected for Christmas potentially with some timing restrictions and traffic delays,” says Mr Connors.

SH6, South Westland, north to south status update:

Hokitika to Hari Hari – open as of today for all traffic, not just essential services and residents.

Harihari to Whataroa (Mt Hercules) – closed but aiming to reopen for Christmas.  There are likely to be restrictions when this last section of highway opens which could include single lanes, traffic management and daylight hours open only. These will be confirmed as work progresses. Achieving this goal of Christmas opening is weather dependent.

Whataroa to Franz Josef – open. This area of least damage was cleared on Sunday.

Franz Josef to Fox – closed, but this section of SH6 will be open for two hours between 10am and 12pm for essential travel (residents, people needing to leave, milk tankers) from Wednesday 11 December to Friday 13 December.  We are hoping to reopen it daylight hours, 8 am to 8 pm from Saturday 14 December, for everyone.

Fox Glacier to Paringa – closed, but will reopen from 5pm Tuesday, 10 December for everyone.

Paringa to Haast – open, as of today.

Haast to Makarora – open 24/7 as of today. A further 24-hour closure will be required at Clarke Bluff for rock scaling work next week, 16 December. The date and timing of the closure is weather dependant and will be notified prior.

All sections of this route have extensive traffic management in place at damaged sites. Road users should expect significant delays.

West Coast updates/ map here: link)

Civil Defence West Coast: link)


Civil Defence details and information for Otago region where the water levels in lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka and the Clutha River are also being closely monitored and actions taken to keep people safe:

QLDC: link)

CODC: link)

CDC: link)

MetService: link)

Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management: link)

 MetService severe weather warnings: link)

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey. Keep up to date with: