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Waitangi Day Heralds Major Races Around The Te Wai Pounamu - Invercargill, Westport, Otira Gorge

With Waitangi Day ahead on Tuesday and many people taking Monday, 5 February also as a holiday, South Island drivers should be ready for busy highways on key routes, says NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA).

• The NZTA holiday journeys hotspots tool showing peak travel times when highways are likely to be congested is now available:

People heading towards Otago and Southland may see groups of motorcyclists heading in the same direction for the Burt Munro Challenge following Waitangi Day (Wednesday to Sunday, 7-11 February).

The following weekend the Coast to Coast multisport race gets underway on Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 February, with the Buller Marathon on Saturday, 10 February. As well as watching out for competitors on SH73, between Kumara Beach and Christchurch on those days, people should expect a busier highway in the lead-in and build in extra time for journeys.

Burt Munro Challenge, Southland – 7-11 February

In past years up to 2,000 motorcyclists registered to take part in the Challenge with thousands of spectators at places like Oreti Beach, Bluff and Sandy Point. NZTA advises all road users to take care around motorcyclists who are much more vulnerable than people who are inside cars.

“Build in plenty of coffee and break stops, enjoy the journey and take care around motorcyclists and other road users,” says Nicole Felts, NZTA Journey Manager for Otago and Southland. “Passing when there is so much traffic on the highways will probably not get you there any faster and will just raise stress levels.

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“We have a big summer road re-sealing programme in full swing so crews will try and minimise as much work as possible. But there will be temporary speed limits in places with active work sites on weekdays so please observe the posted speed limits. Please slow down for everyone’s safety.”

Waitangi week travelling tips

People can be prepared for the Waitangi Day and weekend peak periods by checking the updated holiday planning tool before leaving home:

Snips from the holiday journeys planning tool for Canterbury and Otago:

In Ōtākou/Otago, celebrations are being held in the Octagon from 1-3 pm:

In Canterbury, Okains Bay on Banks Peninsula is again hosting Waitangi Day celebrations, 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, 6 February:

The heaviest traffic around the South Island will be around Christchurch and Timaru, Kaikōura, Blenheim, Nelson and Motueka and Queenstown and Wanaka.

Motorcyclists may also take the inland highways past the hydro lakes and smaller towns like Tekapo, Geraldine and Fairlie.

Tips for safe driving and riding:

• Check your vehicle before you head off eg tyre pressure and tread, windscreen wipers, indicators and lights, Warrant of Fitness and Registration.

• Take extra care because of increased traffic volumes, congestion, tiredness and people driving in unfamiliar environments.

• Drive to the conditions - whether it’s the weather, the road you’re on, the time of day or amount of traffic. Even in summer, there can be floods and high winds.

• Keep alert and share the driving if you can. Take regular breaks.

• Keep a safe following distance from vehicles in front so you can stop safely.

• Be patient: Overtaking is unlikely to make a significant difference to your journey time due to the amount of traffic expected in coming days.

• Allow plenty of time.

Riding to the conditions:

So what does riding to the conditions mean if you are a motorcyclist? Check this page for a few extra tips just for motorcyclists:

Details on the Coast to Coast, 9 and 10 February:

Details on the Buller Marathon, 10 February:

The Buller Gorge, SH6, is narrow with a large number of bends. The course is closed to all traffic except official, support and emergency vehicles along SH6 from 8am until 10am from Inangahua Junction to Four Mile Junction. SH67/Brougham Street from Palmerston Street to Queen Street in Westport is also closed from 9.30am to 1.30pm.

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