Res­i­dents fret road ru­mours

Teen hiker chop­pered out af­ter night in for­est Kevin Wil­liams de­ter­mined to get weight-loss surgery

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER EDER

The main coastal route from Blen­heim to Christchurch is sup­posed to be open by Christ­mas, but will it be open af­ter Christ­mas?

Res­i­dents along the quakedam­aged high­way, north of Kaiko¯ura, claim road work­ers are say­ing they will likely have to close the road again af­ter keep­ing to their hol­i­day prom­ise.

The New Zealand Trans­port Agency on Tues­day de­nied the claims, but did say some parts of the high­way could be down to one lane while re­pairs were fin­ished.

NZTA earth­quake re­cov­ery man­ager Tim Crow said the high­way would not be closed again af­ter Christ­mas.

‘‘There’s no in­ten­tion for it to open and then re­duce the level of ser­vice. What we’re hop­ing to do is pro­vide a level of ser­vice peo­ple can rely on.’’

But that’s not what res­i­dents in Clarence are hear­ing, who are in­creas­ingly scep­ti­cal as the weather and weeks roll by.

One woman said she heard the road would open for just a few days and then close again.

‘‘I also heard some parts might be open just one way, de­pend­ing how the re­pairs go. Just in patches, but it wouldn’t be two lanes the whole way.’’

An­other Clarence res­i­dent, who asked not to be named, said she also heard the ru­mour.

She doubted the high­way would be com­pletely fin­ished by the NZTA’s self-im­posed dead­line of Christ­mas.

‘‘It’s hard to be­lieve how they can open it, con­sid­er­ing how much work is left to go. It’s such a big job.

‘‘We just don’t know what to be­lieve.’’

A third res­i­dent said the ru­mour had spread up the coast with speed.

‘‘We were just talk­ing to our neigh­bours about it. Most peo­ple are say­ing they’re way be­hind sched­ule ... The rain pushed them back.

‘‘[Road crews] have got a lot of pres­sure on them from the Gov-

‘‘It’s hard to be­lieve how they can open it, con­sid­er­ing how much work is left to go. It’s such a big job.’’ Lo­cal res­i­dent

ern­ment. All the work­ers say it def­i­nitely won’t be open by De­cem­ber 15.’’

She and her neigh­bours were try­ing to make plans for the first few months of next year, and would be gut­ted if the high­way closed again, she said.

‘‘It is frus­trat­ing, hav­ing to go to Blen­heim for things like gro­ceries.’’

Kaiko¯ura MP Stu­art Smith said he heard the ru­mour about the road clos­ing again af­ter Christ­mas from some of his con­stituents and went straight to NZTA to find out the truth.

‘‘You’d be amazed at some of the ru­mours I’ve heard, that the road will only be open a few days, that traf­fic will only be al­lowed to go north to south.

‘‘It did cause a gig­gle, when I took it to NZTA. They are hear­ing all th­ese ru­mours all the time. But when it’s open, it’s open.’’

He was happy to in­ves­ti­gate ru­mours for peo­ple, es­pe­cially those still re­cov­er­ing from the Novem­ber earth­quake, he said.

‘‘It’s al­ways good to be ask­ing ques­tions.’’

Crow said some sec­tions of the high­way would need more work af­ter Christ­mas.

‘‘We could be mak­ing im­prove­ments for the next year or so, and we’re go­ing to need some work­ing space to do that.’’

The only thing that would close the high­way com­pletely af­ter Christ­mas was a ‘‘weather event’’, Crow said. ‘‘But that’s out of our con­trol. We’ve had the wettest win­ter for a long time, and that’s made work very dif­fi­cult.’’

The Iron­gate Stream, north of Kaiko¯ura, was flooded by heavy rain at the week­end, forc­ing crews to stop work tem­po­rar­ily.

NZTA planned to re­lease more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion next week about what shape the road would be in from De­cem­ber, Crow said.

How­ever, that in­for­ma­tion would not in­clude an of­fi­cial open- ing date, he said.

‘‘We will give peo­ple some as­sur­ance about how to plan for the hol­i­days. I re­spect they need some level of un­der­stand­ing so they can pre­pare.

‘‘We’re still con­firm­ing [the open­ing date], but we are still com­mit­ted to open­ing be­fore Christ­mas.’’

Con­struc­tion of the 80-me­tre Iron­gate bridge, south of Ward, on State High­way 1.

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