Call for action on Manawatu Gorge
Businesses throughout the lower North Island are pushing for an urgent solution to the troubled Manawatu Gorge route, saying road closures have been a longstanding problem.
State Highway 3 through the gorge, linking Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, has been closed because of slips since April.
It will not reopen for the foreseeable future, with the NZ Transport Agency pulling staff out of the area because of safety concerns.
The agency is working on upgrading the Saddle Rd alternative route, which bypassess Woodville and takes heavy trucks through Ashhurst.
But business leaders want more action, faster, to get the problem fixed.
Manawatu Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Amanda Linsley said the chamber asked the Government in 2012, after another large slip came down in 2011 and closed the road for 14 months, to find a longterm solution.
‘‘No-one wants a continuation of the situation whereby every five years the gorge is shut by a major slip closing the road for at least a month, with many minor hiccups throughout the year, disrupting local businesses and adding unnecessary costs.
‘‘Five years later, sadly, that prophecy has come true, with an even more devastating outcome than was foreseen.’’
Trucking firms across the lower North Island were being hit
‘‘The gorge is the most expedient, and some would argue the safest, route available.’’ Paul O'Brien
with increased labour and fuel costs, she said.
‘‘Companies are acutely aware of not just the damage to their own businesses, but to the Manawatu and the lower North Island’s general economic standing.’’
Meanwhile, no solid solution had been put forward.
‘‘There needs to be urgent discussion and a decision made about the possible alternatives and a plan put in place for the long term without further delay.’’
Manawatu businessman and former director of the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Paul O’Brien said chambers across the lower North Island were lobbying Transport Minister Simon Bridges for a solution.
‘‘They all use Manawatu as a distribution hub, so it’s not about being parochial.
‘‘The gorge is the most expedient, and some would argue the safest, route available.’’
Transport Minister Simon Bridges, pictured at the Manawatu Gorge, accepts the road’s closure needs a solution sorted quickly.