After the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle in early 2023, State Highway 2 is now open between Wairoa and Napier in New Zealand after restoring the bridge.
This stretch of state highway has been closed since Cyclone Gabrielle after suffering damage to around 100 sites, including the bridge at Waikare Gorge, which was destroyed during the cyclone.
A Bailey bridge has now replaced that bridge while plans for a long-term replacement are finalised.
Community leaders marked the completion of the Bailey Bridge yesterday with an official ceremony that included a blessing by Ngāti Pāhauwera and Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust.
Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin says restoring access for communities up and down the highway has driven everyone working on the road to get it to this point.
“We know how vital this road is, not only to the communities that live alongside this section of SH2 but also those at either end – 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 whānau,” says Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin.
“This highway is the backbone of these communities, and we couldn’t have reached this milestone without the support and patience of everyone along the way,” says Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin.
Wairoa District Councillor Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke, a Trustee for Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust and attended Saturday’s opening ceremony, says the bridge is more than just a physical structure.
“While the bridge connects us physically, north and south of the Waikare, its completion enables a sense of freedom. A sense of psychological and spiritual reconnection between our whānau and communities. It signals a significant step towards full regional rehabilitation, though the proverbial road ahead is still longer,” says Wairoa District Councillor Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke.
Wairoa District Mayor Craig Little has been looking forward to this weekend since the cyclone hit in February.
“It is tremendous to celebrate the reopening of SH2 between Wairoa and Napier,” Wairoa District Mayor Craig Little.
“This national highway is so much more than just a road. It connects Wairoa to the rest of Hawke’s Bay, to our whānau and vital services, including healthcare,” Wairoa District Mayor Craig Little.
Ms Hankin says today’s reopening doesn’t signify the end of the road for repair and recovery.
“Contractors will continue to be present at several locations along the highway during daylight hours, working on areas with varying levels of damage,” says Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin.
“This means people driving through the area will see considerable traffic management in places and lower speed restrictions,” says Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin.
“Over the past few months, people in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti have become very familiar with driving to the conditions, and we’re asking them to continue to exercise patience and understanding, go to the needs and be considerate of other people on the road, including our roadworkers, especially in areas where the road is down to one lane, such as the Waikare Gorge Bailey bridge.
“This stretch of SH2 suffered the most damage of any of our networks, largely due to the topography of the surrounding area. We’re incredibly grateful to our contractors and bridge engineers for their hard work and commitment in getting the road to this point,” says Waka Kotahi Regional Manager of Maintenance and Operations Jaclyn Hankin.
Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst echoes those sentiments.
“We are immensely relieved that access has been restored for our isolated communities, particularly for our rural residents around Putorino and Tutira, who have been cut off for so long,” says Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
“The highway is also vital to the economies of Gisborne and Tairāwhiti, given it is a critical connection to Napier Port,” says Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
“I acknowledge the work of the teams that have repaired such major damage, successfully reconnecting us to our communities and our Wairoa neighbours ahead of schedule,” says Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
Mayor Little says now that the road is open, the people of Wairoa are looking forward to reconnecting with family, agencies, services and people they have not seen for three very long months.
“This road is our lifeline, and we appreciate the work that has gone into restoring connectivity,” says Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
Image source: © 2023 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency
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