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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

State Highway 2 has reopened to two lanes at the site of today’s slips in the Waioeka Gorge between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors have been working to clear the three slips since first light this morning and the road reopened to one lane around lunchtime. A temporary speed limit will remain in place overnight.

National Emergency Response Manager Mark Owen says with State Highway 35 closed between Ōpōtiki and Te Kaha after a section of the eastbound lane near Motu River bridge collapsed into the river last night, getting SH2 reopened was a priority.

“SH2 through the Waioeka Gorge is an alternative to SH35 for vehicles (excluding over-dimension vehicles) travelling between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne, but we advise people to take care. While the road has reopened to two lanes at the site of today’s slips, traffic is still reduced to a single lane on the southern approach to Motu Bridge, 7km west of Matawai, due to an earlier underslip.”

With the rough weather of the past few days easing, the focus is on a solution for State Highway 35. However, Mr Owen cautions people not to expect a quick fix.

“We know how important these connections are to communities on the East Coast – to access necessary services, such as food and healthcare, to get kids to school, to run businesses and to stay in touch with friends and whanau.

“With the rain easing, our contractors are working incredibly hard to make the most of the relatively settled weather forecast over the next four days.

“There is a lot of work to be done. The river is still incredibly high and the road is still moving,” Mr Owen says.

Contractors and geotechnical specialists are working first and foremost to ensure the safety of the site, as well as undertaking investigations into options for solutions.

The Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast in particular, have experienced significant rainfall, coastal surges and strong winds this year, all of which puts pressure on a roading network that is already more vulnerable due to unstable geology.

With the rain forecast to return early next week, people living alongside State Highway 35 are encouraged to use the next few days to prepare for bad weather and make sure they have everything they need to avoid having to travel if the weather gets rough.

“We know it’s not easy for people living and working along SH35 at the moment, and we appreciate their patience,” Mr Owen says.

He encourages everyone to take care, allow additional time for their journeys and be patient, especially with other road users and road workers.

“Safety is our single biggest priority and we will not reopen the road until we are confident it is safe to do so, for both road users and our road workers, but I want to assure everyone our teams are working extremely hard to see that happen as soon as possible.”