Rangitata bridge, SH1, opening late this afternoon; South Westland, SH6, south of Whataroa open from 10am today


SH1 at the Rangitata Bridge will open late this afternoon. The exact time will be confirmed at 3 pm today, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency System Manager Pete Connors.

Floodwaters are now coming under control with joint action from Environment Canterbury, KiwiRail and Transport Agency river engineering and roading crews.

There is a small amount of surface water left at the SH1/SH79 Orari intersection, but the highway is increasingly dry to the north.

The Orari SH1/79 intersection earlier today, water now well below the top of wheels.

The Orari SH1/79 intersection earlier today, water now well below the top of wheels.

A barrier upstream of the highway redirecting water away (called a bund) is being completed by tomorrow and Chorus is also finishing essential repairs to its network.

After peaking at 2,200 cubic metres of water a second (cumecs) during the Saturday flood, the river has now dropped to 330 cumecs, still five times its average flow. Given the pounding taken by the river’s protection systems at the weekend, it remains vulnerable in any future flood events, warns Environment Canterbury.

Please see Environment Canterbury’s warnings on the Rangitata River system: ecan.govt.nz/home/flood-warning(external link)

“The Transport Agency thanks all the people who have been working on these repairs and on the alternate route via Arundel since the weekend for their long days and dedication in this lead-in to the holiday period. People can expect to see work continuing to strengthen and rebuild bunds around the river and stopbanks right through to Christmas,” says Mr Connors.

The alternate detour route for most of today

Route 72 via Arundel is the detour until SH1 reopens:

South Westland, SH6 – good progress with access over much of route as of 10am today

State Highway 6 south of Whataroa opened at 10 am today, taking people all the way to Makarora and Otago on the other side of the Haast Pass, and alternately allowing southern access into the glacier townships and further north from Otago.

The journey will be slow in places while crews continue to remove and remediate slips sites and road shoulder damage after the recent torrential rainfall and flooding. The Transport Agency asks everyone to take care around our crew members and their machines.

Some sections will be single lane for some time to come with Stop/Go traffic management.

“While we are aiming for the Christmas opening for the whole route south of Hokitika to Makarora, we will update this timetable on Friday morning (13 December),” says Mr Connors.

Fox to Franz Josef section closed overnight 8pm to 8am

The only opening restriction on the route south of Whataroa is in the Fox Hills section between the two glacier townships. This section will close at nights between 8 pm and 8 am.

North of Whataroa to Harihari – the most damaged section

The area north of Whataroa to Harihari is remaining closed with work ongoing on extensive slips over a several kilometre section. The aim is to open this section by Christmas and timing will be updated this Friday morning.

Road collapsing down the side of the hill into a river with the rest of the road showing on the other side of the 'drop out'.

One of the big ‘drop outs’ or road collapses at Mt Hercules/ Whataroa.


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