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It takes two: Collaborative effor 'silver lining' in storm event recovery

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As the floodwaters started to recede after the significant weather events that battered the Wairoa District in March and April, the scale of the damage – and the clean-up and repair work required – was already glaringly obvious.

State Highway 2 was closed both north and south of Wairoa at different points, due to flooding, slips and downed trees, as was State Highway 38. However, it’s Wairoa District’s local road network that has seen the most significant ongoing impact.

At the peak of the weather events, Council’s roading contractors were dealing with 30 roads that were blocked due to flooding, slips and downed trees – many of which remain in place.

However, says Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, there has been a silver lining to all the rain clouds. He is thrilled with the support from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency as the clean-up programme gets underway.

“Over the past few years Council, and in particular our roading team, has built a great relationship with Waka Kotahi and it is this foundation that will stand our district in good stead as we tackle this challenge together.

“Waka Kotahi representatives have visited the district and seen first-hand the damage we are dealing with. They have a good understanding of our roading network and the consequences and severity of this damage.

“We know everyone is keen to see access restored across the district as soon as possible and delays are frustrating. However, it is vital that we take a well-considered approach, in partnership with Waka Kotahi, to ensure the best results for our district.

“By planning our recovery and repair work in alignment with Waka Kotahi, we are more likely to achieve better outcomes,” Mr Little says.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges lies with Te Reinga Bridge, which had been closed for all access since early April due to the subsidence of two of the bridge piers and a bow in the bridge deck.

Earlier this week the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and light vehicles, following work by contractors to restore some load-bearing capacity. Work on a permanent solution for the bridge repair is continuing.

Waka Kotahi Central North Island Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin says Waka Kotahi is acutely aware of the significant impact the damage has had, and is continuing to have, on communities in the Wairoa District.

“We recognise how much the people and businesses that call Wairoa home rely on these local road connections and we are committed to continuing to work with Wairoa District Council to support its repair and recovery programme.

“The National Land Transport Programme has an Emergency Works funding allocation for events like this, to repair and restore roads to get people and freight moving again.

However, she cautions, it won’t be a ‘quick fix’.

“The priority is restoring safe, functional access for all vehicles, but restoring the network to what it was previously will take some time. In the meantime, it won’t necessarily be pretty.”

Mayor Little agrees.

“Just a reminder to people we are doing the best we can. Contractors are balancing priorities with needs across the entire roading network. The focus remains on clearing road access for all vehicles, including stock trucks and trailers, and there may be a reduced level of services during this difficult period.

“We are working collaboratively with Waka Kotahi and within their funding processes to ensure the best results for our district.”

20 May 2022

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