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NZTA delighted with response to Gorge open day

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The NZ Transport Agency has thanked the public after yesterday's charity open day at the Manawatu Gorge raised close to $5,000 for the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter.

NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the Agency was delighted with the response to the open day. Several thousand people come from Manawatu and some far-flung locations to walk the gorge and have a close encounter with the largest slip to ever hit a New Zealand highway.

"It was fantastic to see so many people come along to have a look at the slip and the work that we're doing. It was a great family occasion and it was really rewarding to see the smiles on the faces of people after nine months of disruption," says Mr McGonigal.

"In particular, it gave the public the chance to chat to the team working at the coalface of the operation, so as well as getting an 'up close and personal' look at the slip, people also got to enjoy firsthand accounts of the challenges we've been facing.

"We'd like to thank the people of Manawatu and beyond for coming along with their families and lending their support to the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter, and of course to all the work crews involved in getting us to this stage.  We're also especially grateful to Higgins, the Manawatu Events Equipment Trust, Horizons and Classic Hits for helping to make the day go smoothly, as well as everyone else who got involved.

"We received a lot of feedback from the public about what a beautiful and enjoyable walk it was, how the weather truly came to the party, and that the day was very much a once in a lifetime experience for many."

Manawatu Events Equipment Trust Chairman Phil Pirie says the public had been very generous in their support of the Rescue Helicopter.

"It was a great turnout of people to view the work and an opportunity to raise money for the Rescue Helicopter.  A special thanks to all those that helped, especially to Tom Shannon for the use of his land and the organising of the Ashhurst Pohangina Lions Club which collected over $4900, and also to Higgins for providing marshals."

The slip has now been cleared to road level, and crews are well underway in the construction of a temporary road to enable the NZTA to reopen the road to one lane. Mr McGonigal says the open day was a chance for people to experience a unique perspective of the gorge before it was opened up to traffic again.

"The next time the public are at the gorge in large numbers, we expect it'll be to drive along the highway when it's reopened to one lane, and what a day that will be, we can't wait. "

"Of course, the job is far from over, and over the next few months we'll be working ourselves hard to get the bridges fixed as soon as we possibly can."

The NZTA expects to reopen the Gorge to one lane of traffic around the end of May, weather and conditions permitting.

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