MP’s ‘ed­u­cated guess’ on SH1 proves right

Kaikoura Star - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - ANAN ZAKI AND MICHAEL HAYWARD

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.’’

PHOTO: IAIN MCGREGOR/ STUFF

It has taken an enor­mous amount of ma­chin­ery and man­power to clear a path for the high­way.

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