Heading to the Napier game? Allow extra time for Gorge closure.


The NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists travelling north to the Canada vs France match in Napier this weekend to allow extra time due to the ongoing closure of the Manawatu Gorge from a massive slip last month.

Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the Gorge is likely to remain closed for several more days, and motorists travelling between Wellington/Palmerston North and Hawke's Bay will need to allow an additional 30 minutes for journeys.

"We are mindful that a large number of motorists will be heading to Napier for the big game, and it is important that they plan ahead to ensure they get there in plenty of time," said Mr McGonigal.

"We have been working hard to get the Gorge open, but the hillside has proven very temperamental. Providing safe passage for motorists is our most important concern, even if it does mean trips will take a little longer."

Mr McGonigal says the NZTA was focusing on securing the hillside until it was stable enough to hold itself up, and while the NZTA was hopeful to restore access next week, this would depend entirely on how the hillside behaves in coming days.

"We need to do a very thorough job, and we need to do this safely, and with a slip of this magnitude, this will take time."

"The stuff that's come down is only part of the job; the biggest challenge is the material that needs to be brought down before the road is safe to reopen."

Mr McGonigal says the NZTA understands the importance of this route to the people and businesses of the region, and the agency appreciates the patience shown by motorists and local communities during what has been the longest closure in seven years.

Mr McGonigal says that it is also important that fans take their time to ensure a safe journey home after the game.

"People will be returning home after dark, and while we have made extensive safety improvements to the highway network in recent years, it is still important that people drive to the conditions, keep a safe following distance and keep their speeds down.

"Our goal is to ensure Rugby World Cup 2011 is not only a winning one for New Zealand, but a safe one as well. We do not want anyone's World Cup to be marred by an avoidable road crash."