MP’s ‘educated guess’ on SH1 proves right
The date for the reopening of State Highway 1 north of Kaiko¯ura came as no surprise to the electorate’s MP Stuart Smith.
Smith famously let slip the opening date of the earthquakestricken highway at an election event in August this year and claimed it was an ‘‘educated guess’’.
That educated guess has proved correct, after the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) confirmed on Friday that the highway would reopen on December 15.
Smith said he was delighted the date had turned out to be correct.
’’It was an ‘I told you so’ [moment], I put on my Facebook [page] that my educated guess proved to be accurate and I’m delighted for the people of Kaiko¯ura and for the people living north of the slips,’’ Smith said.
Smith admitted it was pure accident that he had let the reopening date slip earlier this year.
‘‘It was spoken about by people fairly well up the chain but never been reported in the print media, I had known about it for a long time but I just kept it to myself.
‘‘For some reason it went past my block and I blurted it out,’’ Smith said.
Smith said the reaction from residents in the Kaiko¯ura electorate had been positive.
‘‘The moment I came out with that, I was contacted by so many different people saying ‘ thank goodness at last we have a date’.
‘‘For businesses it’s survival or not, it’s as simple as that ... they rely on passing traffic and it simply isn’t passing.
‘‘While I got a bit more attention than I wanted, it was worth it for the positive impact it had on people’s psyche,’’ Smith said.
NZ Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow warned the highway would remain an active construction site after it reopened on December 15.
‘‘It will look like it’s unfinished, but it will be in a safe state for the public to use.’’
Motorists were advised to allow five-and-a-half hours to drive the coastal route between Picton and Christchurch, an hour less than the alternative inland route.
The highway will only be open during daytime hours, and with unsealed sections, lane closures and stop-go traffic control.
Some temporary day closures were also possible and earthquake recovery work would continue through early next year.
John Bond, who represents the upper South Island for the Road Transport Association, said the reopening announcement was good news, but some trucks would continue to take the inland route because of limitations such as stop-go signs and daylight opening only on SH1.
‘‘They have done a fantastic job, and always kept us informed. But perhaps the cars and campervans can use the coast route to get things happening for the economy in Kaiko¯ura. That will take the congestion off the inland route and leave it for the truckies.’’
Crow said there would be three or four areas where drivers could pull off the new SH1 for a rest and to take in the views.
‘‘However, we do need a lot of the space as well, this is a very constrained corridor.’’
He said he was extremely proud of the people who had worked on the project.
‘‘They’ve put themselves out, they’ve worked long hours and I think they’ve achieved great results, despite the weather and despite all the other challenges.’’
It has taken an enormous amount of machinery and manpower to clear a path for the highway.