Quake road rebuild’s serious spend
Rebuilding the South Island’s quake-stricken highway is costing up to $65 million a month as the reopening date looms.
Sections of State Highway 1 to the north and south of Kaiko¯ura sustained serious damage during last November’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake. They are due to reopen on December 15 after a rebuild effort. Repair work is expected to continue through 2018.
The most recent figures available show the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR), which is rebuilding the road, spent $351m on the work between January and the end of September.
Since then spending ramped up dramatically.
NCTIR expects to spend about $1.2 billion across the SH1 and adjacent rail repairs. This does not include upgrades to the alternative route, the $231m SH1 upgrades package announced in July, nor the Kaiko¯ura harbour rebuild.
In January, NCTIR’s spend on earthworks, sluicing, temporary repairs and rail repairs was $7.6m. In September this jumped to nearly $60m. About 60 per cent of that cost went towards seawall construction and coastal road
‘‘We’re trying to restore the corridor to pre-earthquake conditions, or better, as efficiently as possible.’’ Tim Crow, NCTIR earthquake recovery manager
has realignment, with the remaining money paying for structures and repairs to existing infrastructure.
Earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow said NCTIR spent about $60-65m a month for the last three months.
He said the dramatic spending increase was because they went from designs and systems at the start of the year, to having 1300 workers building seawalls and bridges. ‘‘I think it [the spend rate] is more than appropriate for the amount of work we’ve completed.’’
NCTIR was in a ‘‘lucky position’’ as all the top of the South Island’s main contractors were involved and had all the resources they needed.
Crow said the rebuild was ‘‘not looking to spend a budget’’.
‘‘We’re trying to restore the corridor to pre-earthquake conditions, or better, as efficiently as possible.’’
The spending rate would slow down when the road reopened to traffic, Crow said.
The highway will reopen only during daytime hours with unsealed sections, lane closures and stop-go traffic control. Some temporary day closures were possible. Motorists are 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.
Its closure costs the freight industry an estimated $2.7 million in additional expenses each week and dropped the annual tourism spend in Kaiko¯ura by nearly half, taking $63m from the region.
Automobile Association (AA) Canterbury/West Coast District Council chairman Roy Hughes expected travellers to ‘‘progressively’’ revert to using SH1.
‘‘With the improvements NZTA has made to the inland route ... it’s possible it will continue to have slightly more use than it did before the quake.’’
Hughes said the inland route and the new SH1 would be safer as a result of the unplanned investment, which would provide lasting benefits.