SH35 road closure
Details of support that may be available from Ministry of Social Development if you have been impacted by the roading closure can be found here: Help with essential costs PDF
LATEST UPDATE: 27 July 2022 2.46pm
24/7 access restored at site of SH35 collapse near Motu River bridge
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Media Release:
Twenty-four-hour, seven day a week access will be restored to all traffic at the site of a significant collapse on State Highway 35 near Motu River bridge this afternoon.
SH35 has been closed near Motu River bridge since last Wednesday night (20 July), following severe cracking and a section of the eastbound lane falling into the river.
A temporary single-lane track was opened to light traffic on Saturday evening through to Monday morning, and again for three hours Monday night, before a decision was made yesterday to open the road between 6am and 7am and 5pm and 8pm on weekdays this week.
Bay of Plenty Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations, Rob Campbell, says the temporary single lane track has held up well to the demands of traffic and recent weather.
“This performance, together with an impressive effort by our contractors, has meant we are now able to provide 24/7 access to all traffic, including over-dimension vehicles with the relevant permits, via the temporary single-lane track from this afternoon.”
The temporary track will open to most traffic from 3pm, with access for logging trucks from 4.30pm. This section of SH35 is not an approved HPMV (High Productivity Motor Vehicles) route. Over-dimension vehicles with valid permit are now able to use the road again.
Contractors will remain on-site 24/7 and the temporary track will be under traffic light control with a 30km/h temporary speed limit in place.
“State Highway 35 is a really vulnerable part of our network at the moment and safety is the priority, so we will need to continue to re-evaluate access after any significant weather to ensure the road remains safe for use. This may mean the road needs to close again at short notice.”
People are encouraged to visit the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner website (journeys.nzta.govt.nz) and social media pages (Facebook: facebook.com/NZTAWaikatoBoP and facebook.com/WakaKotahiHBG; Twitter: twitter.com/WakaKotahiWaiBP) for up-to-date information on the road status.
Work to permanently reinstate the road to two lanes continues, with contractors having successfully completed work to divert the river away from the riverbank.
“The water has receded far enough away from the embankment for the on-site team to start getting some of the big rocks in place that are needed to rebuild the collapsed section of road,” Mr Campbell says.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience, we know it hasn’t been easy, and ask that you continue to be patient with us for a while longer.
“We know how important State Highway 35 is 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, and we’ve been working incredible hard, alongside out contractors, to get that connection back up and running as soon as possible.”
Finally, Mr Campbell asks people to continue to take care, follow the temporary speed limit, allow additional time for their journeys and be patient, especially with other road users and road workers.
“Driving through the site faster than the temporary speed limit risks causing damage to the road and prolonging the works.
“It’s also a good idea to avoid unnecessary travel, where possible. If you don’t need to be out on the road, especially in poor weather, don’t be.”
Previous: 26 July 2022 11.14am
Medium term plan for SH35 starts this week
From Tuesday 26 July 2022, State Highway 35 at Rahotautau, near the Motu River Bridge (between Ōpōtiki and Te Kaha) will open to light traffic from 6am to 7am and 5pm to 8pm.
Heavy rain in the area had resulted in the washout of a large section of the road alongside the Motu river last week. A temporary single lane track was able to open over the weekend but closed at 8pm on Monday night ahead of wet weather.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors have assessed the track is safe to use between 5pm and 8pm each evening. Outside of these hours, contractors will be using the track to continue repair works.
Ōpōtiki District Council Civil Defence Controller, Gerard McCormack, said it was a relief for those who relied on the road for supplies and work, but there was still a lot of work to do before the road would reopen for all traffic.
“I’d like to acknowledge and thank the work crews on the ground and all those supporting them, particularly the hapu reps who have worked all hours to get us to this point.
“It is a relief that traffic will be able to use the track between 6-7am and 5-8pm each day until further notice. This will open up vital supply lines and allow people to get in and out. That will mean that vehicles can’t get through during most of the day. Because it is such a small area, the crews need to use that lane to work from so traffic won’t be able to pass. Of course, Waka Kotahi will be keeping a close eye on the road conditions so that we can keep everyone safe,” Mr McCormack said.
There are other safety restrictions, including the temporary closure of the Motu river mouth by the Harbourmaster so that works can be carried out safely. The Controller also asked that everyone was respectful on the site, be patient, keep to speed restrictions and take extra care on that stretch. If heavy vehicles needed to get through in exceptional circumstances, they can provide 24 hours’ notice to Higgins Contractors in Rotorua so an escort can be arranged.
“The team are making good progress stabilising the area, but at this stage we don’t have an indication of a longer-term solution. This arrangement will continue until further notice. Please continue to contact your hapu reps or Ōpōtiki District Council with any enquiries or for additional support,” Mr McCormack said.
Previous: Monday 25 July 2022 3.49pm
Quick update on SH35... It all looks good for this evening's 5pm-8pm opening for LIGHT VEHICLES (but it is still worth checking the Waka Kotahi website before you travel).
We can’t confirm access for the rest of the week until we know what this coming weather will do. We’ll provide an update when we know more.
https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/tra.../roadclosures/391435 (includes info for heavy vehicles)
Previous: Saturday 23 July 2022 midday
Temporary single lane track to open to traffic on SH35 at Rahotautau, north of Maraenui (near the bridge across the Motu) tonight.
Waka Kotahi have created a makeshift track to allow light vehicles on a single lane. The temporary single lane track will open from 5pm tonight until 7am Monday.
During Monday the track will be closed to traffic so that construction can continue. If safe to do so, the road will open again from 5pm until 8pm on Monday. However, there is heavy rain forecast for Monday night through into Tuesday, and the situation will need to be reassessed to ensure it can operate safely.
Ōpōtiki District Council Civil Defence Controller, Gerard McCormack, reiterated safety of those working and travelling through the site would be the priority.
“The people working on the site and the staff and volunteers working in support of them has been outstanding. Because of this, Waka Kotahi has been able to open the single lane to the public. But we are not out of the woods yet – there is more rain forecast, and we will need to be sure that it hasn’t worsened the situation before confirming how the road will be used next week. It is not possible yet to give a timeframe for when the road will be back to full functionality.
“For the moment, we have a window in which people and supplies can move in and out, so I encourage people to make the most of it. The more permanent solution will be our focus from next week and it will take time.
“Please be extra careful as you pass through the area, be patient and respectful of the contractors and hapu reps who have worked so hard on this site. There are a few other caveats on this news, so please check the Waka Kotahi website before travelling,” Mr McCormack said.
Important things to note:
- The single lane track will be open to traffic (weather permitting) on Saturday 5pm to Monday 7am and Monday 5pm to 8pm
- The safety of the temporary track will be reassessed on Tuesday.
- Light vehicles only (and emergency personal – ambulances etc or urgent supplies when arranged with Waka Kotahi with 24 hours’ notice)
Next update Monday 25 July 2022
Previous: Friday 22 July 2022 12.05pm
State Highway 35 remains closed.
Waka Kotahi have made good progress on stabilising SH35 at Rahotautau, north of Maraenui (near the bridge across the Motu) with the more settled weather. The river remains very high, although it is expected to continue to drop slowly over the weekend before the rain forecast for Monday. The riverbanks are still unstable and Waka Kotahi have 16 trucks working on the site, moving rock in to assist with stabilisation and the rebuild.
Ōpōtiki District Council Civil Defence Controller, Gerard McCormack, reiterated that the road is closed and there is no public access.
“We really do appreciate how disruptive and worrying this is for affected communities and all the agencies involved are working to both get emergency supplies through and to get the road open as soon as possible.
“We ask that people keep clear of the area – in vehicles or on foot or in boats. The water level is still high and the riverbanks are unstable. There are people, trucks, rocks and machinery moving around and trying to work in a small area. Please let the road crews do their job safely.
“If people have any concerns or supplies they need to move urgently, please don’t hesitate to contact your hapū reps or contact Ōpōtiki District Council by phone or online. We have a coordinated approach to getting urgent supplies back and forward across the closed site or around the long way via SH2. This must be organised in advance so please contact us for that.
“Te Kaha store and Waihau Bay Allied Petroleum 24/7 Fuel are both well stocked and open. Te Kaha medical centre is also operating largely as normal so please continue to use those organisations as usual,” Mr McCormack said.
The road will remain closed over the weekend and Waka Kotahi will provide an update on Monday. Whether the road will be able to reopen or partially reopen will depend on progress, river levels and the weather but the agency reiterated that there is “no quick fix”.
Previous: Thursday 21 July 2022 5.26pm
No change at this point today everyone. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation at all times and will update this page in the morning with further info on getting supplies up to our Coast communities and agencies plans for that section of the state highway.
Until then, if you need support or to move essential supplies, please get in touch with your hapu rep or get in touch through the enquiry form above.
Previous: Thursday 21 July 2022 1.20pm
State Highway 35 remains closed. Agencies are working together to find a short-term solution for urgent supplies while working on a longer-term road engineering fix for the state highway.
Ōpōtiki District Council Civil Defence has activated their Emergency Operations Centre and are coordinating a range of responses from Te Whānau a Apanui, Waka Kotahi, FENZ, St Johns Ambulance, Regional Council, Hauora a Toi, Emergency Management Bay of Plenty and a number of vital community services such as Te Kaha Store, Te Kaha Medical Centre, and Allied Waihau Bay Fuel Stop.
Ōpōtiki Controller, Gerard McCormack, said that there was not yet a timeframe for a fix, but he was relieved that the good weather for at least a few days would make it easier for the crews.
“With half the road in the river, there is just no safe way to get vehicles through that section at the moment. But I want to reassure those stuck on either side of the undercut slip, that we have plans in place to ensure necessary supplies can get through.
“Since the partial closure on Monday, we worked to ensure that supplies of food, fuel and medicines were stocked up. In addition, we are investigating a number of options to ensure vital supplies can get through in the coming days. Fuel can be supplied from the Gisborne side, flights and emergency-only access may be possible shortly. So there is no need to panic buy as supplies will get through.
“I’d also ask that people stay off the river. There have been a few reports of boats crossing and it is just not safe to do so currently. The water is still high and the riverbanks are unstable. With the works going on to repair the road, boats are also just going to get in the way.
“We are sorting out the logistics of getting supplies across and if anyone needs anything transported in either direction urgently, please contact council and we’ll be in touch when we have arrangements in place,” Mr McCormack said.
Waka Kotahi also advised that road crews had been clearing the slips along the Waioeka Gorge and SH2 Oponae is now open to one lane with stop/go in place. This opens up the alternative route for Coast access if necessary.
Previous: Thursday 21 July 2022 9.40am
These photos from early this morning are now on our Facebook page and give an idea of the scale of the undercut on SH35 at Rahotautau, north of Maraenui (near the bridge across the Motu).
Thanks to Clarke Koopu for these pics.
Waka Kotahi is inspecting the site this morning and we hope to be able to give an update on next steps around midday.
Please check with the traffic map on the Waka Kotahi website before all travel around the Coast and eastern Bay of Plenty.
Previous: Wednesday 20 July 2022 9pm
SH35 is now closed at Rahotautau, north of Maraenui (near the bridge across the Motu)
The area has been down to one lane since late Monday, but collapsed along the centre line this evening and the eastbound lane has fallen into the river. Waka Kotahi have now had to close the road completely.
There is no access between Opotiki and Te Kaha (except via SH2 through Waioeka Gorge although caution is advised due to a slip west of Matawai and one-lane only traffic).
The situation will be reassessed in the morning and we expect to be able to provide an update after 9am.
Original release - Agencies plan for possible closure of SH35: Tuesday 19 July 2022 5pm
A section of SH35 near the Motu River Bridge north of Maraenui is cracking along the eastbound lane and the section is under stop/go traffic management. Over-weight and over-sized vehicles can't use this route until further notice. Waka Kotahi is keeping a close watch on the situation and if cracking develops further, the road may need to be closed at short notice.
A slip has also occurred at Waikawa Bridge between Te Kaha and Waihau Bay and the road is down to one lane under priority give way.
In response to this situation, Ōpōtiki Civil Defence has activated their Emergency Operations Centre to keep a close eye on the situation and to ensure that there is a coordinated, local response and planning.
Ōpōtiki Civil Defence Controller, Gerard McCormack, said that the current heavy rain that is expected for a couple of days is likely to worsen the situation.
“At the moment, light vehicles can come and go, although we support Te Whānau a Apanui calls for only necessary travel so that essential services can move more quickly and avoid more stress on the road.
“However, river levels are likely to stay high, putting more stress on that section. Waka Kotahi is keeping a very close eye on the area and they have trucks on site to put rocks in place to lessen the impact of the high water levels. But if the cracks worsen, we can expect a full road closure between Ōpōtiki and several of our Coast communities.
“We want to make sure that we are ready for this possibility, and we have kicked off a few meetings with the right agencies. Te Whānau a Apanui have activated their emergency response plan, Hauora a Toi are working through what it will mean for medical and health needs, we have arranged deliveries of food and other supplies to Te Kaha while the road is still partially open so that people won’t be caught short. We’ll keep everyone updated as we know more,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack said that the implications of a closure would be felt for a significant period of time, as any road repair would likely take weeks or months, not days. With the added difficulty of possible closures, slips and issues in other places along the Coast route, planning was a priority.
“To be fair to the communities up the Coast, they are very resilient and unfortunately accustomed to periods of time when travel is long or not possible. But such a repair in that location would be a huge job and Waka Kotahi are working on time estimates for that work.
“There are no detours possible on that section of road and the ‘alternative route’ would require travel around the entire East Cape to Gisborne, a four-hour trip one-way in good conditions. In addition, the road from Ōpōtiki to Gisborne along SH2 is prone to regular road closures and is currently down to one lane due to a undercut of the road near Matawai.
“We will make sure we keep everyone informed as we know more. People should stay up to date and make sure they check the Waka Kotahi website before travelling, drive to the conditions and take extra care in the area,” Mr McCormack said.