Progress on state highways across Hawke's Bay


Over 100 structures, such as bridges and large culverts, on state highways in Hawke’s Bay have now been inspected following the devastation unleashed on the network by Cyclone Gabrielle. 

Restoring connections to communities and enabling access for emergency services and lifeline utilities is the top priority for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says Central North Island Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations, Jaclyn Hankin.  

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this cyclone. We are doing everything we can to help, as quickly as we can. 

“Our crews are working in incredibly challenging environments in multiple locations where the ground is still saturated and hillsides vulnerable to further movement.

“We’re particularly aware of the impact on communities like Wairoa, which has been cut off from more than one direction. Crews are working hard to clear State Highway 38 so we can open this route to the public as soon as possible. State Highway 2 is severely damaged between Wairoa and Napier due to the cyclone and requires temporary solutions to provide access for communities, which we are making progress on.”  

State Highway 38 from Wairoa to Lake Waikaremoana is currently only open for emergency access, while debris and slip clearing takes place.

Whakatane District Council crews are clearing from their side through to meet contractors working hard to clear the road between Lake Waikaremoana and Wairoa.  

State Highway 2 remains closed between Napier and Wairoa; Waikare River bridge was lost at Putorino, and significant works are needed at Devil’s Elbow. It is likely to take several months before the road can be opened to traffic, however the section to the north of Putorino may be able to be opened earlier and is currently able to be accessed by residents and emergency services. Access between the Esk Bridge and Tangoio is availablee for residents and emergency services only. Large earth moving equipment is now being brought in due to the significant amount of earth to be moved on this corridor.

On State Highway 5, contractors continue to clear slips and debris on the southern section from Te Pohue. Marshall’s Bridge between Bay View and Glengarry was damaged and a solution for repair has been designed. It is likely the next step for access on this road will be allowing freight convoys through. Currently, the road is open for emergency access only between Bay View and Te Pōhue, and there is controlled access in place for residents and essential supplies only between Te Pōhue and Taupō.  

Heading south, State Highway 50 also remains closed between the Expressway and SH2, as bridge inspections and debris removal continues. A repair of the Mangaonuku No 3 Bridge was being sealed today, and flood pumping has now stopped from Links Rd to Fernhill bridge. Fernhill bridge did not sustain any additional damage during Cyclone Gabrielle. This section of SH50 may be able to open to the public in the coming days.

The Hawke’s Bay Expressway is open, however, there is considerable traffic congestion at peak times due to other roads remaining closed throughout the region.  

Ms Hankin asked people to think twice about whether they really needed to travel on this route, particularly at peak times to ensure the road remained clear enough for emergency services, essential freight and critical workers such as doctors and nurses to get where they need to be in time.  

State Highway 51 is open to emergency services and critical workers only, and is reduced to one lane at Waitangi Bridge due to damaged piles. Waka Kotahi will be monitoring SH51 over the weekend as it may need close for safety reasons if there is heavy rain.  

Waka Kotahi is also working alongside local councils to support them in restoring their local road networks.  

“We are leveraging all of our capacity to provide support to councils where it is needed most,” Ms Hankin says. 

“While we are working to safely restore access along our state highways, in many cases these roads won’t be in the same condition as before Cyclone Gabrielle. As access is restored, roads are likely to be under temporary speed restrictions, have stop go/operations in place or even require detours.” 

“The potential cost of repairs will not be understood until detailed damage assessments have been completed. Repair work is supported by local and central government with an extra $250m allocated to top up the National Land Transport Fund’s emergency works budget. 

“Given the scale of the damage to many of our state highways Waka Kotahi recognises that serious consideration will need to be given to the form of future connections,” says Ms Hankin.

“This work takes time due to its scale and complexity, but we will work with central government and our local partners to carry this out as quickly as possible.” 

In the meantime, Ms Hankin asks everyone to please respect the crews on the ground.  

“Only travel if you need to, sightseeing trips on the network to see flood damaged areas hamper crews and create unnecessary traffic on the network slowing down our progress. 

“If you must travel, drive to the conditions and follow the directions of all traffic management staff and signs. The faster people drive through silty and dusty areas, the more dust is created. Keeping your speed down and adhering to the temporary speed limits in place also helps keep our crews safe while they undertake this important work.” 

Please note this information can change rapidly – ensure you check the latest weather conditions with MetService, and consult the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner for the most up to date information on road closures.

Waka Kotahi Journey Planner(external link)

For those who are unable to access the internet at this stage, please keep tuned to local radio for the latest Civil Defence advice. Local programmes are on The Breeze 97.5 and The Hits 89.5 and Civil Defence information on Newstalk ZB 96.7.

Journey Planner is updated 24/7 by Waka Kotahi traffic operations centres and is the best source of the most recent and reliable information available on state highway closures and disruptions. Remember to refresh the page when checking the status of highways to ensure that the latest updates are displayed.