It has been a year since Cyclone Gabrielle struck Hawke’s Bay with devastating force in mid-February 2023, leaving damaged bridges and culverts, buried roads, significant dropouts and isolated communities in its wake.
Hawke’s Bay councils have been hard at work to adjust to the new normal. Here is an overview of the roads and bridges which are in the process of being repaired and rebuilt in Hastings, Napier, Central Hawke’s Bay, and Wairoa.
It’s important to note all State Highways are now open.
Hastings District Council faces an estimated $800m cost to repair and restore 30kms of roads damaged in the cyclone and to rebuild 13 permanent bridges and 5 large culverts.
This work is estimated to take between 7 to 10 years to complete.
More than 30kms of roading was damaged in the cyclone, the vast majority in rural areas affecting both sealed and unsealed roads.
The latest council update mentions short sections of the sealed and unsealed roads being repaired. On Waimarama Road 1.2kms of lime sand footpaths have been rebuilt in concrete.
As well as the 13 bridges which need to be completely rebuilt, another 40-plus need repairing, and there are five large and complex culvert rebuilds required.
Puketapu Bridge will be the first permanent rebuild aimed to be completed by the middle of 2025. This is expected to be followed by Matapiro Bridge.
There is still a lot of damage along State Highway 2 Napier to Wairoa. According to NZTA it is only safe to drive at the posted speed limits and during daylight hours.
The majority of the road is open to two lanes, but there are areas down to one lane due to underslips and wash-outs.
Expect to see damage along the route, particularly around Tutira and the Devil’s Elbow.There’s still a lot of work to do to repair slips, under-slips, wash-outs and road surfaces. Crews will continue repair work along the route for the foreseeable future.
Waitangi Bridge on SH51 in Awatoto withstood Cyclone Gabrielle and structural assessments following the cyclone found that it was safe for use.
However, as a vital link in an area that was hard hit, it will continue to be monitored by NZTA. Until recently, this monitoring required short closures of the bridge. However, the transport agency has now installed electronic monitoring equipment that enables engineers to monitor the bridge remotely.
The bridge at Waikare Gorge between Napier and Wairoa collapsed and washed away in the cyclone. A temporary Bailey Bridge opened to traffic in May 2023. It is open to 50MAX vehicles less than 23 metres long and 2.55 metres wide.
Ultimately the Waikare Gorge project will include a 4k realignment and a new 160m bridge across the Waikare Gorge at Putorino (north of Napier). A major milestone was reached in May 2023 with the resource consent being lodged with the HB Regional Council.
Once the consenting and detailed design is complete, the project will be put forward for construction funding. This funding can only be sought when the detailed design is 80% complete. Construction was estimated to take approximately three years, once funding is approved. The project is included in the Tairāwhiti Roading Package.
Wairoa District Council is responsible for the maintenance of around 830km of roads around the district, not including State Highways, which are taken care of by the NZ Transport Agency.
In Wairoa the Nuhaka River Road is closed to 2.5kms due to slips and washouts. The council update states it’s closed long term.
Glenbrook, Te Puna and Te Reinga bridges all have issues. Glenbrook Bridge is washed out from Abutment A-Pier D, with a Temporary Ford crossing in place.
Te Puna Bridge at Mangapoike Road Pier C is displaced and no longer supporting bridge structure. Structural analysis proved that bridge can collapse at any moment. Temporary Ford Crossing under construction.
Te Reinga Bridge at Ruakitrui Road Pier C gone- structural capacity severely compromised and collapse likely. Bridge Removed, temp bridge being constructed.
Central Hawke’s Bay
As a result of the cyclone, Central Hawke’s Bay faced 72 roads closed due to large slips, washouts and damaged/destroyed bridges. CHB District Council launched into action to assess the damage across the district and carry out urgent repairs/clean-up at key sites and reconnect rural communities, with work costing up to $300,000 a day.
Council’s primary objective has been to restore single-lane, light vehicle access to all communities (not all roads), but reinstatements continue to enable heavier vehicles in targeted areas (Class 1 loading).
Council estimates $150 million worth of damage in total across the 1,268 km roading network – $100 million for Cyclone Gabrielle damage and $50 million for the 2022 damage.
Waka Kotahi has committed $35.94 million to fund repairs required as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle, available until the end of June 2024, with strict criteria as to the type of repairs it can fund (repairs not requiring in-depth, complex engineering and design work).
Through National Resilience Plan negotiations with the Crown, Council has secured a further $11 million of funding to spread across four key Recovery sites: Wimbledon Road 1.3, Wimbledon Road 1.9, Elsthorpe Road and Fletchers Crossing.
Repairs to 24 roads and bridges kicked off in late-January, 2024 at the Gwavas Bridge site in Tikokino. This programme will also see repairs to Wakarara Road, Old Hill Road, Flaxmill Bridge and sites on Hautope Road.
CHBDC chief executive Doug Tate says: “We’ve been fortunate to have these response works fully funded by NZTA. Once these works are complete in June 2024, however, the district will still require major investment to ensure we have a road network that our communities can rely on.
“We still need an additional $129 million just to repair damage from Cyclone Gabrielle and the damage caused by the extreme wet weather in 2022. How we fund this beyond 30 June this year and what a contribution locally and from central government might be is not yet known.”
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