Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is calling on Northlanders to submit feedback on the looming Brynderwyns closure which will impact heavily on residents and businesses including tourism and freight.
Meanwhile, new Transport Minister Simeon Brown has visited the site - which he dubbed “a broken road” - and which he again promised would be prioritised as part of the coalition government’s recent commitment.
Brown visited the site on Friday, along with Northland MP Grant McCallum and Brett Gliddon from Waka Kotahi.
“I requested to go because I know how important that section of road is to Northland and how vulnerable it is,” Brown said.
“I wanted to see what work needs to be done to get a better understanding and find out how NZTA is engaging with the Northland community.
“It’s pretty clear the work absolutely needs to happen. The road is in a very vulnerable position.
“It showed me the importance of finding a long-term solution.”
It was Brown’s first site visit as the new minister, and he said the Brynderwyns, which was closed for weeks earlier this year due to slips and flooding, was a “top priority”.
That’s why the coalition government had committed to building a four-lane alternative bypass route, he said, and he would ensure resource consents for the project would be fast-tracked.
The government was “currently rewriting the government policy statement on transport, which is a tool we can use to direct NZTA priorities”, he said.
That would be issued in the first half of next year, and would set out potential routes, costs and how works would be funded.
“What I saw on Friday was a broken road. NZTA will do work next year to improve it but that will only buy a number of years.”
Brown slammed the former government’s “appalling decision” to can a review into alternative routes over the Brynderwyns in 2017.
Back then Waka Kotahi sought public feedback on two alternative route options to the west of the Brynderwyns, but the Labour government put the project on hold.
Waka Kotahi is now taking another look at those options.
“We’ve lost six years to make some of those key decisions,” Brown said.
“Now we’ve got to get the focus well and truly back on our roads as quickly as possible.”
Waka Kotahi recently confirmed SH1 through the Brynderwyns would be fully closed for two months in 2024 for more roadworks to bring the highway back up to scratch following storm damage earlier this year.
Dates for the work, initially to be carried out between Waitangi and Easter, were deferred after an outcry from Northland business leaders.
Waka Kotahi is now inviting Northlanders to provide feedback on closing the highway before winter to maintain the vital connection for the short to medium term.
There are two options for the closure date; either seven and a half weeks from February 7, reopening before Easter and costing about $61m, or closing after Easter for about 10 weeks, costing $66m.
The work will include widening the shoulder, to allow future repairs to take place with less disruption to traffic, meaning a lane can be open during all weather events.
During the work, 150,000 cubic metres of earth will be moved and relocated within the site.
The New Zealand Automobile Association said an alternative route between Northland and Auckland was needed “urgently”.
AA’s Northland District Council chairwoman Tracey Rissetto said while next year’s roadworks “need to happen … the remedial works are no more than a short-term fix.
“A more resilient route is essential to Northland’s economy and would have significant benefits for all of New Zealand, allowing people and goods to get to where they need to be.
“Progress on an alternative route to the Brynderwyns has been placed on hold for the past six years.
“Recent weather events have shown that we must now expedite the process and make up for the time lost.”
Northlanders can give feedback via an online survey here before 5pm on December 10.
Two webinars will also be available to the public, starting with a short presentation, followed by a Q&A session on December 6 at 6.30pm and December 8 at 10.30am.
Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering health, food, lifestyle, business and animal welfare issues.