Erosion shuts down car park
Permanent gates have been installed to prevent vehicles accessing the Patiti Point car park in Timaru after the cliffs beneath the road leading to it were eroded in last week’s severe storms, as extropical Cyclone Gita crossed the country.
‘‘Last week’s cyclone has really taken quite a chunk out of the cliff,’’ Timaru District Council communications manager Stephen Doran said.
MetService recorded about 100 millimetres of rain at Timaru’s airport in the 24 hours from early evening on February 20. The storm scoured a number of roads, leaving debris and surface flooding in places. South Canterbury councils have been working since Thursday to remedy these issues.
Geraldine business owners on Monday were relieved to learn Speechlys Bridge on State Highway 79 (SH79) between Fairlie and Geraldine has been reopened to traffic.
Doran said fixing the road to the Patiti Point car park did not look viable as it would require rebuilding part of the cliff. The council decided to close the road, which wasn’t a public road but an access route within the Patiti Reserve, for safety reasons. It would, however, remain open for walkers and cyclists. People could still access the beach on foot but would need to park elsewhere first, he said.
Doran said all roads within the Timaru District were now open following Gita but motorists would need to take care as some, particularly rural gravel roads, would be rougher than usual.
The footbridge in Geraldine was now also open, and all water schemes were back up and running normally, he said.
The approach to Speechlys Bridge, which crosses the Te Moana River, was washed out on Wednesday. Gita’s arrival brought heavy rain which caused many rivers and creeks around South Canterbury to rise significantly.
New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) South Canterbury maintenance contract manager John Keenan said the approach had been repaired but there was a temporary speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour in place.
The bridge reopened on Sunday afternoon and the detours NZTA had put in place were removed, Keenan said.
The Cottage Pantry and Gallery owner, and Go Geraldine board member, Pauline Denzey said there had been a noticeable decrease in the amount of traffic along Talbot St, the main street of Geraldine, while the bridge was closed.
‘‘Obviously numbers were down. I think you could say that just from looking down the street.’’
There were a lot fewer trucks down the street, which was great, but there were fewer tourists about as well, she said.
Denzey said on Monday morning she hoped traffic would pick up again and was relieved the bridge had reopened.
The closure demonstrated how vulnerable towns could be to changes such as roads closing, she said.
Go Geraldine promotions coordinator Janene Adams said business owners had noticed a downturn last week. ‘‘ We worked together and we put some Facebook posts up to spread the word to let people know that Geraldine was still open for business.’’
Go Geraldine also promoted an alternative route which brought motorists to the town via SH1. ‘‘It did affect us for a couple of days but NZTA did a wonderful job of getting the bridge repaired in really quick order, so we are back in business.’’
The car park at Patiti Point has been closed to vehicular traffic for good after the recent storm eroded the cliff below.