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Major work required in the Gorge to prevent closures

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Major work required in the Gorge to prevent closures

Our road network is vulnerable in many places and this has massive consequences for the region. No one at the NZ Transport Agency or in the Government would debate that.

On the back of the latest Gorge slip closure, I was asked by an Auckland radio station to sum up in one word the state of the Waioeka Gorge. I used “unpredictable”, as the potential of extended closure is an ongoing threat that has become very real and very costly in recent years.

The Chamber is an independent voice for local businesses, and it is our businesses and residents who have to live through the impacts of these closures.

Transport operators have been frustrated at the length of time taken to clear this latest slip, procedures in place around temporary passing opportunities, as well as closure overnight when many trucks ply the route.

It is good that State Highway 2 is fully reopened again. Now it is time for the necessary response from NZTA and the Government: the Gorge requires a long-term and as permanent a fix as possible.

Gisborne is a destination city at the end of long drives, making it even more important that we have guaranteed road access 24/7 on the quickest route — as much as possible, allowing for extreme geological and weather challenges.

Closure of the Gorge comes at big costs, to transporters and businesses that rely on them in particular. Having to round the Coast, or head to Napier then northwards, are big diversions that make for huge disruption during Gorge closures.

We look forward to seeing the draft business case to make the route from Opotiki to Napier more resilient, which NZTA will soon present to the councils of the region. We hope it will involve a serious level of investment in protecting the Gorge road from slips.

On behalf of our members, we will also add the Chamber’s support directly to Transport Minister Phil Twyford and associate ministers Shane Jones and Julie Anne Genter. If you wish to have input or to add comment re our Gorge and its issues, please contact me direct at the Chamber or via email: terry@gisborne.org.nz

Terry Sheldrake, Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive

Posted: Friday 20 July 2018