Far North isolated

By Glen Prentice


Cape Reinga is cut off and 500 Far North residents have been left stranded for at least two days after part of State Highway One was destroyed in torrential rain.
The approach to Mitimiti Bridge, just north of Te Kao, was washed out yesterday morning during a downpour which saw more than two months of rain dumped on Northland in two days.
Aside from the Te Paki Stream Rd, which was also closed by flooding, the bridge provides the only public access to the Cape and settlements such as Tangoake, Waitiki Landing and Te Hapua.
Thousands of vehicles, including tourist buses, use the bridge each day in summer.
Transit New Zealand northern operations manager Joseph Flanagan said the bridge approach had been washed out and part of the bridge itself damaged.
It would be early next week before the road could be repaired.
"Teams of contractors will work non-stop to repair the road and the bridge," he said.
Initial reports suggested the entire bridge had been swept away, which would have posed a far more serious problem - especially as the nearest available bailey bridge is in Napier.
Transit NZ was looking at alternative routes for people left stranded north of the bridge.
Emergency services, roading contractors and power companies were run off their feet yesterday dealing with fallout from the heavy wind and rain.
Trees blocked roads near Kaeo, Mangonui and Russell, many washouts and slips were reported and dozens of roads were flooded, including State Highway One near Rangiahua which became impassable late yesterday.
Volunteer firefighters from Kaitaia, Mangonui, Kaeo, Paihia, Russell, Kerikeri and the Pukenui Rural Fire Party were kept busy with flood-related callouts.
According to the MetService, just over 200mm of rain was dumped on Kaikohe in the 48 hours to 5pm yesterday.

The town's usual February rainfall is 90mm; last year the area received just 20mm of rain over the whole month.
Dargaville recorded 117mm over the same period, and Whangarei 68mm.
Last night Far North District Council downgraded a flood warning around Kawakawa.
But spokesman Rick McCall said the council was still worried about possible flooding in the Victoria Valley, Takahue, Kaitaia and Fairburn areas, for the Mangamuka area, and the Waima and Taheke areas of the Hokianga.
Top Energy said power was cut to homes across the district but crews restored it by 5pm yesterday.
Belgian tourist Gregg Meesters, who arrived at Waitiki Landing on Tuesday after visiting Waitangi, was one of about 40 tourists stranded in the Far North.
He said rain over the last few days had forced him and his partner to abandon their tents and head indoors.
Like many visitng for commemorations the poor weather didn't spoil his trip.
"It was nice to go up to the Treaty House it was really beautiful and we saw the big canoe."
Mr Meesters, 25, was to have travelled to the Coromandel late yesterday after visiting Cape Reinga. However, he wasn't too bothered about being stranded.
"We'll be staying the night here and wait and see what happens. We will just relax and have ourselves a wine or a beer," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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