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Kaikōura transport network improvements wrapping up

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A special ceremony was held at Kaikōura’s South Bay today to mark the departure of the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) Alliance from the township exactly three years after State Highway 1 fully re-opened on 15 December, 2017.

A new Kaikōura town entry sign was unveiled and two tekoteko (carved pillars) were blessed by Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, as a symbol of the completion of works to restore and improve the transport networks, underlining the increasingly strong relationship built up between the NCTIR Alliance and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura over the past four years. 

Speakers recalled the millions of hours of work from around 9,000 people, many working away from their homes and families, and the smiling and waving road traffic controllers, who made the waits at multiple work sites endurable and even a high point in some people’s days. 

The NCTIR Alliance was established after the November 2016 earthquake by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail in partnership with four construction companies - Downer, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction and Higgins. 

Hariata Kahu, Chair of Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, right, and Minister of Transport Michael Wood, left, unveiled the new sign and tekoteko at the entrance to Kaikōura, South Bay, today. Craig Mackle, Mayor of Kaikōura District Council, is far right and Nicole Rosie, Chief Executive of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, is on the left of the sign.

The earthquake had devastated communities and transport networks, tearing through State Highway 1 and sweeping the Main North Line railway into the sea. Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle described the devastation as he viewed it shortly after the earthquake as “unfathomable” but also a once in a lifetime opportunity to build back much better. 

Overnight, coastal and rural communities had been left isolated. The instant disruption to tourism, freight and primary industries was felt nationwide, and the number of necessary repairs was enormous, with more than 3,300 separate ‘things to be fixed’, including land and structures. 

The initial focus was on “moving mountains” and reconnecting communities as quickly and as safely as possible. This was achieved in late 2017 with SH1 reopening to the north, reconnecting Kaikōura to Blenheim and Picton. 

“The second phase, currently being completed, had a focus on delivering strategic long-term durable solutions that improve the safety and resilience of the transport networks and improve amenity for locals and visitors,” says Nicole Rosie, Waka Kotahi Chief Executive. “This includes the delivery of a Cultural Artworks Package along the transport network’s new safe stopping places, telling stories of whakapaka and connection, in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura.” 

Hariata Kahu, Chair of Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, acknowledged the work of Maurice Manawatu in developing the Cultural Artworks Package and bringing the history of Ngati Kuri to the Kaikōura coastline, bringing the road and rail builders closer to mana whenua and the history of Kaikōura. 

Nicole Rosie says the extraordinary achievements of the team could not be understated and could only have been achieved by working collaboratively. 

“Waka Kotahi, KiwiRail and our construction partners made a powerful team, through the NCTIR Alliance, that was set up to resolve an extraordinary situation. Through innovation and an amazing collaborative effort we reopened road and rail ahead of target – an extraordinary response to a complex multi-faceted infrastructure project. 

“By forming strong partnerships with our Treaty Partners Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, Kaikōura District Council, and through the work with the Restoration Liaison Group, Cultural Advisory Group and the community we have been able to achieve so much together and leave a lasting legacy for the community. 

“Around 9000 women and men who have worked more than 6.5 million hours to get this job done should be proud of the legacy they are leaving and I thank them for their efforts. I would also like to thank the community for their patience while we’ve been here – they’ve been through a lot and now hopefully life can get back to normal for everyone.” 

Greg Miller, KiwiRail Group Chief Executive, says on the Main North Line, 190 kilometres of rail, 20 tunnels and numerous other rail sites were damaged by the quake. 

“It’s a testament to the commitment of our team and our partners that we managed not only to fix the damaged rail line, but we have created a line that is more resilient now than it has ever been, and will long go on connecting communities across the upper South Island.” 

Tony Gallagher, NCTIR Project Director, says the disaster rebuild project has been one of the most significant engineering challenges in New Zealand’s history. “It’s been a privilege and humbling to be so warmly welcomed by the community and mana whenua over the last four years. We could not have achieved what we did without that partnership. This is an experience that will stay with us forever.” 

A small team will be working south of Kaikōura in the new year to complete the final piece of NCTIR work - a new rockfall protection canopy which will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Further north, KiwiRail is continuing work to complete the Ruakanakana Overpass near Ward. This involves cutting through a hill to bypass the old Tar Barrel rail tunnel and building a road overpass above the rail line.

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