Heavy maintenance work on the Saddle Rd will still go ahead today in spite of the severe weather the Hawke's Bay region experienced yesterday.

Earlier this week the New Zealand Transport Agency announced that maintenance work "dependent on the weather" would begin on the Saddle Rd to ensure it could cope with the increased traffic volumes it had experienced since the gorge closed in April.

Yesterday afternoon NZTA said the repair work was still "set to go ahead" and, while the weather could change overnight, they were ready to begin working this morning.

New Zealand Transport Agency regional transport system manager Ross I'Anson said maintenance work announced for the Saddle Rd on Thursday wasn't a result of the NZTA shifting their resources away from the Manawatu Gorge.


"The NZ Transport Agency has taken over the management and maintenance of Saddle Rd from Tararua District Council as - for the time being - it is the main route between the Manawatu and Hawke's Bay, and we need to maintain it to keep it in the best shape possible while it is coping with the extra traffic."

The "essential" maintenance work was due to begin today and cause traffic restrictions for the next three weeks.

Mr I'Anson said these restrictions were necessary to ensure the work was done as quickly as possible.

"While we acknowledge that it may be frustrating for people, the traffic plan will mean the Saddle Rd maintenance work will be completed sooner than it otherwise would be, if the work was done under a Stop/Go programme,

"The work will also ensure that people can continue to access Woodville and businesses there, while the gorge is closed."

Mr I'Anson said it was "too early to tell" when the Manawatu Gorge might reopen in light of recent events.

Slips were "hampering" efforts to reopen the road and only when the movement slowed or stopped could the situation be reassessed, he said.

Saddle Rd restrictions will affect traffic between the hours of 9am and 3pm; traffic moving from Ashhurst to Woodville would move through a single traffic lane on Saddle Rd and traffic going from Woodville to Ashhurst would travel via a detour over the Pahiatua Track.

Roadworks and restriction updates will be displayed around the routes and NZTA contractors will be putting up extra signs around Woodville about the detours.