The NZ Transport Agency says the temporary diversion route through the Waioeka Gorge near Gisborne opened at 9am this morning (Thursday 29 March) and traffic is flowing gradually through the specially created one-lane road.
NZTA Bay of Plenty state highway manager Brett Gliddon said the NZTA opened the single-lane temporary diversion route at 9am with motorists already waiting to go through.
He said an onsite geological safety assessment undertaken this morning confirmed that the slope had not moved overnight and that the temporary route was suitable for vehicles to travel on.
"With the conditions being favourable this morning and the hillside being assessed stable we were able to proceed with the planned 9am opening of this road as planned."
"We're aware there were many motorists who were eagerly awaiting the opening of this road, and we're thrilled to be able to open this road and provide much needed relief to drivers."
Mr Gliddon says the temporary diversion route opening is a significant move towards getting access through the gorge re-established, however he warns motorists that they should still expect delays, as the road will be a one lane operation with a 30 km/h speed restriction. The temporary diversion road will operate from 8.00am to 5.30pm daily.
"While it's a huge milestone to get the road re-opened, motorists should be aware that holdups are likely due to this road being single lane with speed restrictions. People should be prepared to queue for a while, and we thank everyone for their patience and understanding."
Mr Gliddon says the road is open during daylight hours to ensure that spotters monitoring the slip face are able to see any possible movement while vehicles are travelling through the gorge.
"Initially the road will only be open during the day, as it is not possible to detect potential slips or rock falls at night, even with lighting. Once we are confident that the slip face has stabilised sufficiently we will then consider whether the temporary road can be opened all hours", says Mr Gliddon.
Mr Gliddon says the opening of this road is a credit to the team at Downers and Opus who have worked long hours in difficult conditions to prepare the temporary diversion for today's opening.
"We cannot thank our contractors enough for making the opening of this temporary diversion a reality, it has been a superb and courageous effort, and their positive attitude and enthusiasm despite long hours and the heavy work is admirable. "
"We appreciate that this temporary road is not going to meet everyone's requirements, and that in these situations there can be some tension about getting full access established as quickly as possible. We are doing everything possible to make this happen, but we won't take any shortcuts with the safety of workers and motorists."
The NZTA recommends that motorists visit www.nzta.govt.nz/waioeka-gorge(external link) to check the conditions before planning their journey through this temporary road.