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Looming State Highway reopening a key recovery step

16 July 2014
Release #: 1; issued at 1200 hours

Looming State Highway reopening a key recovery step; Civil Defence

Northland’s recovery from the storm which battered it is poised to reach an important milestone shortly with confirmation today a key, slip-affected section of State Highway One is now expected to reopen on Saturday.

Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says roading authorities have been working 24/7 to bypass the slip south of Kawakawa, on a crucial part of the region’s roading network.

Mr MacDonald says while food and other supplies have continued to be delivered around the region via a series of long diversions, the re-opening of the SH1 section would be important from both a practical and morale viewpoint.

“I suspect many Northlanders – as well as being happy to see reduced travel costs and times and a more direct route to and from the Far North – will also view this reopening in particular as a very visible indication that tangible progress is being made on the storm recovery front.”

Mr MacDonald says despite the diversions that are in place, the Far North in particular was very keen for the rest of the New Zealand that it was still “open for business”, especially with a few days of the school holidays left and fine weather this week.

He says roading officials say the section of SH1 expected to reopen Saturday morning would be a sealed, single lane controlled by traffic lights.

While by and large officials were happy with driver behaviour – especially by truckies – along alternate routes, there had been some incidents involving motorists travelling at excessive speed or following too closely.

“Police are appealing for drivers to be patient and courteous and have directed extra resources to alternate routes to monitor and enforce behaviour and lower, temporary speed limits have also been imposed in places.”

Mr MacDonald says on the welfare front, staff from all three district councils have been visiting flood-affected areas door-to-door to assess needs. In the Far North, while they still had a presence in Moerewa, that process was largely complete there.

In the Whangarei District, council staff had been visiting the Hikurangi Swamp area yesterday and would be back there today before moving into other more remote parts of the district.

In the Kaipara, visits were being made to Aranga, Kaihu, Waihue, Hoanga, Tangiteroria, Pukehuia and Karaka.

The Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 – also continuing to liaise with and support flood-affected Northland farmers and horticulturists.

The Ministry of Social Development – which is working closely with other agencies in Northland – reports it has now dealt with more than 130 extra storm-related hardship cases across the region, largely in the Kawakawa, Kaikohe and Kaitaia areas. Only a few cases had been reported in Whangarei and just one in Dargaville.

Mr MacDonald says in the Far North, anyone whose home is flooded or who urgently needs accommodation, food, heating, clothing or medical supplies should phone Far North District Council’s freephone 0800 920 029 in the first instance.

The Whangarei District Council has a similar service for those needing help in its district; 0800 932 463 and in Kaipara, people should call the council’s main freephone number 0800 727 059.

He says with school due to resume next week, firefighters had washed down all the hard surfaces at Moerewa Primary yesterday as a precaution in case they had been affected by sewage in floodwaters. They were also still assisting with pumping in places in the settlement.

On the power front, Top Energy reported today it still had about 100 customers without power, roughly a third of them in the Wekaweka area, in the Hokianga. Repair work was ongoing there – including flying in wire – and it was now hoped electricity could be restored in the next day or two.

Northpower reported today all major repair work was complete and it was now looking at rebuilding work that is required. It is reporting a “steady stream” of localised faults but says this is to be expected given its system had taken quite a battering during the storm.

Both Northpower and Top Energy repeated their requests for all faults to be reported to them. Top Energy’s fault line number is 0800 867 363 and Northpower’s 0800 10 40 40.

“Again, anybody who stumbles across downed power lines must treat them as live at all time, stay well away from them and to report them to ensure they can be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Mr MacDonald says information about local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz or the NZTA website www.nzta.govt.nz

Recovery and other storm-related information will also continue to be posted as required, including on the Northland CDEM Group’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland and the Northland Regional Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence

ENDS

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