Restoring access one of biggest issues, Minister Steven Joyce tells Kaikoura community meeting

By Sarah Harris

One of the huge slips blocking State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell
One of the huge slips blocking State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Opening access to SH1 on the south side of Kaikoura will happen "quite a way before we open up to the north", Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told the Kaikoura community meeting today.

"I know you've had to deal with a hell of a lot in last ten days," Joyce told residents in the town where frustrations have reached boiling point for some as the reality of travel difficulties and fuel and other shortages starts to sink in after last Monday's massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

"We're right here with you. We want to get these things fixed up as quickly as possible."

Joyce thanked those "who have come in and got things done".

He said restoring access to the town is obviously one of the big issues.

"It's being worked on as fast as possibly can be. We have got heavy machinery working on slips on the south side.

"We'll open up to the south side of SH1 quite a way before we open up to the north.

"The road north has got a small mountain sitting on it. It'll be quite some time before that's cleared."

Joyce was loudly applauded when he also announced that the Government's initial support for quake-affected businesses would be extended to include large businesses.

"We're right here with you,"  Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told Kaikoura. "We want to get these things fixed up as quickly as possible." Photo / File
"We're right here with you," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told Kaikoura. "We want to get these things fixed up as quickly as possible." Photo / File

Initially the $7.5m package was only available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees in Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward.

Joyce said it would be some time before the bigger firms would be able to get on their feet again and "that gives then hopefully an extra bit of confidence of hanging on to their long-term staff".

He said though that there have been no change made to the time frame of the package, which aimed to provide wage subsidies for up to eight weeks. When announced on Thursday, the subsidy was limited to those directly affected by blocked roads or the disturbed seabed, including Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward.

Joyce also said that closing the paua and crayfish fisheries was to preserve the likelihood of fisheries going forward.

He said Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced that yesterday to aid the recovery of the paua and crayfish industry which were two big capital investments that might need Government help, particularly relating to the work on the harbour and work on the sewerage system.

He said this was very focused on recovering the economy.

"We want to get Kaikoura back on their feet as fast as possible."

Civil Defence controller Murray Sinclair speaking to Kaikoura residents today. "We're still in an area of seismic activity. Have a get-ready kit, just in case," he told everyone. Photo / Sarah Harris
Civil Defence controller Murray Sinclair speaking to Kaikoura residents today. "We're still in an area of seismic activity. Have a get-ready kit, just in case," he told everyone. Photo / Sarah Harris

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray told the meeting that on Thursday John Kirwan was coming in as mental health ambassador to talk to everyone at the community meeting.

He also mentioned the logistic challenge faced by dairy farmers, who need to get 650 cows out, but are not allowed to use their trailers.

Civil Defence controller Murray Sinclair told residents at the meeting that "we're still in an area of seismic activity. Have a get-ready kit, just in case."

He reminded people that "scientist say it is likely", adding that chemicals for the toilets were on the convoy today, and should be distributed tomorrow.

Sinclair said that for now raw sewage was going into the southern end of the ocean, which meant no swimming or gathering of seafood in that area.

"The sewerage is not in a good state," he said. "It will be some time before you can use your own toilets."

He said 63 per cent of buildings had been inspected, which was just over 1100. It would take another week before this task was finished.

"It is really good to hear the Government getting in behind Kaikoura."

Sinclair stressed that a "red sticker means you can't be in there.

"Yellow means limited access. White means you're okay."

NZ Transport Agency Board Chief Executive, Fergus Gammie told residents the agency had been working on roading issues immediately after learning of the damage.

"This is an unprecedented damage on a state highway in New Zealand."

Gammie said in the 15km north of Kaikoura there were six major and nine minor slips.

Six of those slips are as big or bigger than the Manawatu Gorge slip in 2011.

One of the slips is three times as big.

"These slips can not be dealt with in a normal way. It's a very very big exercise to deal with those."

Gammie said the priority was to get SH1 south of Kaikoura open. From the north workers have cleared to Okiwi Bay, and from the south they have worked up from Cheviot, and cleared up to Goose Bay. They were also gearing up contractors to work further north on the south SH1.

Helicopters are doing sluicing to dislodge rocks on slips in attempts to bring the full slips down.

Gammie said 15 bridges are damaged.

He said they wanted to organise a supervised convoy out of Kaikoura before the end of the week for people and stock. Only 4WD vehicles would be able to make it. But that still needed to be worked through with Civil Defence.

He said before last Monday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake SH63 from Blenheim to Christchurch used to carry only 700 vehicles a day. With that now becoming the alternative route, it would be carrying thousands a day now.

- NZ Herald

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