NZTA advises Gorge unlikely to reopen before Napier game


The NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists that as slips continue to fall in the Manawatu Gorge, people will need to allow extra time when traveling north to the Canada vs Japan match next Tuesday.

Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the Gorge must remain closed until the hillside becomes stable, and motorists travelling between Wellington/Palmerston North and Hawke's Bay will need to allow an additional 30 minutes for journeys.

"We know the closure of the Gorge is a headache for travelers, and we want to ensure that people get to the game safely and in plenty of time.  We’re asking fans to plan ahead and allow an extra half hour for their trips," said Mr McGonigal.

Mr McGonigal says slips are continuing to fall, keeping road crews busy and prolonging the closure.

“We share the frustrations of motorists and the local community.  We want this road opened, too.  The reason it’s taking so long is that as more material comes down, more unstable rock is exposed, and it’s a case of safely whittling it back down to a point where it’s comfortably stable.”

“We’re very eager to get the Gorge open for business as soon as possible, but looking after the safety of motorists comes first.”

“We understand how crucial this route is for the region, and we’re very conscious that the closure is proving costly and disruptive.”

The NZTA would work closely with councils and other groups to discuss how the impacts of both this and future slips can be addressed.

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."