Sally Kidson/ STUFF
Jessie Oostervroek with son Kaden waits for her turn to drive over the hill.
Takaka Hill has re-opened to traffic to the relief of thousands in Golden Bay who have been cutoff since ex-cyclone Gita hit the South Island last week.
A steady stream of cars, campervans and trucks carrying much needed supplies was making its way over the road on Sunday morning after it re-opened to a single lane at 9am.
Near the front of the line was Philip and Cathy Sim of Waikawa Bay in Picton.
The drive over Takaka Hill with the slips still visible.
They have an adult son with autism who needs to get home and they were considered a special case for priority travel.
“We are happy … the alternative way out with barge, bus and sea shuttle was never going to happen for us. It would be too stressful on our son.”
A queue of campervans and cars on State Highway 60, waiting to cross the Takaka Hill. Golden Bay has been cut-off from the country since Tuesday afternoon after slips triggered by ex-Cyclone Gita closed the highway.
They were full of praise for the women at the iSite who had been so helpful, their accommodation provider was also great letting them stay longer and sorting out the bill when they get home.
Neil Bermingham arrived at 5am and needed to get home to Richmond. He questioned where people with information were at the road block and previously in Takaka.
“I just think Civil Defence (information) has been non-existent.”
A woman hula hoops while she waits in the queue of cars waiting to cross the Takaka Hill.
Mum Jessie Oostervroek was also keen to get out of Golden Bay. She is moving to the North Island and has a ferry booked.
She has moved out of her accommodation in the bay in preparation for the move.
“It’s very stressful. If we can’t get back today we are a bit stuck.”
Signs inside a vehicle waiting to travel across the Takaka Hill highway on Sunday. The road has been reopened for essential travel only.
Civil defence volunteers were talking to drivers coming from Golden Bay on the hill near the slips on the Riwaka side and at the base of the hill at Riwaka.
They warned drivers that the road was wet and narrow in some places.The huge slips caused by the remnants of Cyclone Gita on Tuesday were visible.
Sally Kidson/ STUFF
Neil Bermingham, left, with Linda and Steve Ellison wait to get out of Golden Bay.
The road was dusty in places due to the dried silt however, the drive over was surprisingly straightforward with next to no hold-ups and the road, although down to one lane in places, was in better condition than expected. It took about 40 mins from Upper Takaka to Riwaka.
Some people arrived as early as 5am on Sunday to secure a place in the queue on the Takaka side, with some in campervans choosing to stay overnight.
The long line at the road block at Upper Takaka formed on the wrong side of the road. The lack of information about how the road would be opened was frustrating for some, and a couple of cars that jumped the queue caused tempers to flare.
A collection of different accents could be heard in the queue, with one group of people waiting together from Holland, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland and England.
People were generally calm – but the stress of the situation was obvious.
There was no visible Civil Defence presence at the road block and police arrived at 8.20am. A policeman at the scene would not comment, and said the operation was not being run by police.
NZ Transport Agency system manager Frank Porter said vehicles would be able to cross the hill until 5pm today for essential travel.
Only one direction will be allowed to travel at a time so people should expect long wait times between convoys and come prepared with food and water.
Given the road condition, NZTA said pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles towing caravans, boats or trailers, truck and trailer units or over-dimension units were not permitted to travel over the hill.
If conditions deteriorated, the road would be closed.
Beyond Sunday, the road would be closed so crews could continue with repair works.
“We are aiming to provisionally open the road for a limited period at 7am and again at 5pm each day to allow for essential travel, subject to weather and the condition of the road,” Porter said.
“We ask that people be patient as the wait could be several hours and if we are to provide travel on Sunday, please don’t take your frustrations out on the crews working on site.”
Source – Stuff