Extra care needed driving on the East Coast this summer


The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and Opotiki District Council advise holiday makers visiting the North Island's East Coast to take extra care on the roads this summer.

Rod James, the NZTA’s Bay of Plenty State Highway Manager, says following a major slip on State Highway 35 at Maraenui Bluff, 30 kilometres east of Opotiki in August, a one kilometre detour remains in place.

“The detour is narrow, steep, windy and mostly unsealed gravel. While there is enough space for two cars to pass in most places, car drivers are asked to give way to oncoming heavy vehicles and those towing a boat or caravan. If we get heavy rain, traffic control may revert to allowing one-way traffic only on the detour.”

The abandoned section of the highway in the location of the slip has been thoroughly studied by geologists. They have determined it is too unstable to safely secure so the detour will be upgraded to become the permanent highway.

“A $3.6 million contract to upgrade the detour to highway standard is expected to be awarded this month. Work is due to begin in mid-January and should to be completed by July. Upgrade work will include widening the road, easing corners, sealing the surface and installing guard rail. Traffic is expected to be reduced to one-way flow at times during the work,” says Mr James.

Other parts of State Highway 35 also require extra driver attention. Seven kilometres east of the Maraenui Bluff, the highway at the Motu Bluff is also under repair. Following recent slips in this area, the bluff’s rockface is being cut back and the road widened.

Opotiki District Council Mayor, John Forbes, says the region is ready to welcome safe drivers this holiday season.

“Council asks visitors and all road users to be patient and drive to conditions this summer. If you’re towing or driving slowly, keep an eye on what’s behind you. Pull over safely to let traffic pass. Slow down and enjoy the pace of life that makes our region special,” says Mayor Forbes. 

The NZTA and Opotiki District Council thank road users for their vigilance on the roads this summer.