Travellers frustrated by delays north of New Plymouth after slip

By Brittany Keogh

This slip closed State Highway 3, south of Mokau, and frustrated motorists. Photo / NZTA
This slip closed State Highway 3, south of Mokau, and frustrated motorists. Photo / NZTA

Travellers driving between New Plymouth and Auckland yesterday said they were frustrated by an absence of signage to warn of road closures on SH3 and SH43.

Sections of the roads were closed yesterday due to slips. SH43 has since been reopened, but SH3 remains closed until at least Wednesday.

Several travellers said they only realised the roads were blocked when they arrived at closures and had to turn back, making journey times considerably longer.

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Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First, said it took him 12 hours to get from Auckland to New Plymouth and he missed a speaking engagement "by six hours" because of the delay.

"The problem was that there was no diversions or information to stop drivers going all the way to the road blockage on SH3 and then having to turn around. Police or transit could easily and helpfully put a block at Piopio to stop all the wasted travel."

After his initial U-turn, he then drove 60km along SH43 to find, "once again, no blocks by police at Taumarunui to warn drivers. We warned some as we drove back out".

"Can't help the slips, but the traffic management was poor," he said.

What Colin Irwin hoped would be a four-hour trip from Inglewood back to Kaiaua took nearly 10 hours.

The 62-year-old photographer said he left his home in Kaiaua at 5.30am to visit his nephew in Inglewood, arriving around 9am. After spending an hour-and-a-half with his nephew, Irwin and his friend Dan began their return journey.

About an hour into their drive, at Mokau, they "realised there were police cars and [the police] said 'You'll have to turn back'."

The men tried SH43, but three-quarters of the way along the Forgotten World Highway, encountered another "massive" slip.

After u-turning again, the pair took the Stratford/Taumarunui Highway to Taumarunui and continued through Te Kuiti, Hamilton via Hamilton airport and Morrinsville.

"If we hadn't had the slip we would have been home by 1pm," Irwin said.

They arrived in Kaiaua at 7.45pm feeling "absolutely p***ed off, just gutted".

"We were absolutely annoyed by the fact that there were no warning signs advising us that the Te Kuiti/Taumarunui State Highway 43 roads were closed."

The pair saw many other slips on their alternative route, but could not find police or council workers to alert, Irwin said.

"The roads, they were fit for rally cars. I'll never, ever, in my whole life, go to New Plymouth again."

New Plymouth resident Carolyn Batchelor said she was having a "well deserved rest" today after a "very long and tiring trip home from Thames yesterday".

The trip took 11 hours and 25 minutes, including a two-and-a-half-hour wait in traffic on SH3 before being told to turn around.

Bridget Murdoch took SH43 on her way from New Plymouth to Auckland to try to avoid the SH3 slip, but had to turn back due because of the slip on the Forgotten World Highway.

She left New Plymouth at 12.30pm and arrived in Auckland at 11pm.

New Zealand Transport Agency's regional performance manager Karen Boyt said the agency learned of the SH3 slip at 10.20am and signs notifying travellers of the closure were in place on the northern side of the slip around 10.40am and to the south around 11.50am Sunday.

On SH43, NZTA found out about the slip at 3pm. Signs were put up at 5.30pm at both Stratford and Taumarunui, a time Boyt said "reflects the remoteness of the area, and how long it took our contractors to arrive and assess what was needed".

"Our contractors' first priority is always to secure slip sites to ensure the safety of road users. They will then move on to other temporary traffic management tasks, including arranging signage indicating road closures ahead.

"The NZ Transport Agency works hard on maintenance of roads to help prevent major road closures. If a road closure does occur, we work to get the road open safely as soon as we can."

- NZ Herald

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