A trucking firm involved in a fatal crash on the Lewis Pass road last night says increased traffic on the road since the Kaikoura earthquake may have been a factor.

PBT Group chief executive Dave Lovegrove said a large long-haul truck and trailer unit operated by PBT contractor Leif Blair Transport collided with a van on the Lewis Pass road near Maruia Springs last night.

Police said one person died and five others were injured in the accident - one of five fatal accidents on NZ roads within 24 hours.

Canterbury District Health Board said one male was still in a critical condition in Christchurch Hospital this afternoon, and a female was in a stable condition, as a result of the accident.

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Lovegrove said the truck driver was "physically okay" but "shaken up".

"Our driver was cleared to leave the scene by police and he was driven back to his home, he didn't have to drive home by himself," he said.

"We are doing what we think is right by supporting him and will continue to support him because of the emotional impact of what he's been through."

He said the truck driver left Christchurch yesterday afternoon and was due to meet the Cook Strait ferry in Picton early today.

He said he did not know what had caused the crash, but noted that the road has been carrying far more traffic than usual since State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Picton was blocked in the Kaikoura earthquake a year ago.

"I know it's on that alternate road. There is plenty of existing commentary in the media that the pressure, the stress on that road as an alternate road, that is what it was after the Kaikoura earthquake," he said.

"We are working with the police investigation and we need to do that and support that rather than make any comment."

He said everyone at PBT and Leif Blair Transport felt for the people who were killed and injured in the crash.

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"We offer our sympathy and condolences to everyone involved, and in particular the person that lost their life," he said.

Mike Noon says extra bridges, reduced speed limits and more signage were put into the Lewis Pass road, but it was never designed for high traffic volumes. Photo / File
Mike Noon says extra bridges, reduced speed limits and more signage were put into the Lewis Pass road, but it was never designed for high traffic volumes. Photo / File

Automobile Association motoring affairs manager Mike Noon said there had been more accidents on the road than usual since it was required to carry "many, many times" the amount of traffic it was designed for.

But he said the NZ Transport Agency consulted with the AA about measures to cope with the extra traffic and he had no criticisms about what was done.

"They put more bridges in, they put in bailey bridges. They also had a good look at the road and reduced speed limits and increased some signage," he said.

"But it is never going to be the right road to be carrying that much traffic, because that's not what it was designed for."

The Transport Agency announced yesterday that SH1 from Christchurch to Picton would reopen on December 15, although with some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls while work continues. The road will close at nights for the next several months.