The NZ Transport Agency says it’s coordinating with forest owners, police and the Far North District Council to allow escorted convoys for essential travel on a forest track bypassing the washout that’s closed State Highway 1 north of Kaitaia.
The Transport Agency, police and local authorities have been advising motorists against using the forest route over the weekend because it’s an unsealed route over private land and considered unsafe for cars, camper vans and buses.
Summit Forestry, the land owner, also said the route was not suitable for private vehicles.
But now agreement has been reached to open the route under police supervision for a short time in the morning and evening on Monday, says the Transport Agency’s Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult.
In the morning there will be a 7:30am departure for southbound traffic from the corner of Far North Road and Trig Road and an 8:15am departure for northbound vehicles from 113 Hukatere Road at the end of the sealed section.
In the evening the southbound convoy will leave at 5:30pm with the northbound convoy leaving at 6:15pm.
The convoys will depart promptly. Any vehicle that arrives after the convoy has departed won’t be able to use the route says Ms Hori-Hoult.
There will be no opportunity to make the return journey in between these times.
The convoys are for essential travel only. If you don’t have to travel, please delay your journey until the state highway is open, says Ms Hori-Hoult.
This alternative forestry route is a single muddy track which is suitable for four wheel drive vehicles. Police will be assessing vehicles and drivers for suitability before they can join the convoy. Motorists will be travelling at their own risk.
Police will escort traffic through the area. The travel time is about forty minutes.
Schools have advised pupils affected by the highway closure to stay home on Monday.
Meanwhile Ms Hori-Hoult says work crews are making good progress on rebuilding the road to reopen it to traffic by the middle of the week. Nine of the ten pipes required to channel the stream under the road have been laid. Backfilling over the pipes to restore the road level is under way. Further progress remains subject to the weather.
The top of the North Island has been cut off after heavy rain caused a washout late on Friday afternoon that blew out a 20 metre stretch of SH1 just south of Pukenui.
Communities and tourists north of the washout have been cut off, but Civil Defence says it’s had no requests for assistance. Emergency services say it’s business as usual.
The Transport Agency is working with local authorities, emergency services and the Ministry of Civil Defence to ensure the welfare of local communities and visitors.
While SH1 is closed there is no alternative route between Kaitaia and Cape Reinga, apart from the forest track.
The Transport Agency thanks the local community and visitors for their patience and understanding while it works as quickly as possible to restore a safe and resilient transport system in Northland.
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