The critical main road north of earthquake-hit Kaikoura will only operate during daylight hours once it's reopened next month, the New Zealand Transport Agency confirmed today.

State Highway One (SH1) north and south of Kaikoura was badly-damaged by landslides and ground-shaking during the magnitude-7.8 quake on November 14 last year.

Contractors have been working around the clock to reopen the road north of the seaside tourist town by Christmas.

Today, NZTA confirmed that SH1, both north and south of Kaikoura, will only initially be open from 7am until 8.30pm.

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NZTA Earthquake Recovery Manager Tim Crow says the decision to initially re-open during daylight hours only has been made with the safety of road users in mind.

"We're committed to re-opening the road in time for the holidays so that local residents and visitors can make their way up and down the coastal corridor," he said.

"When the road reopens several sites will still be under construction. There will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls, so we will need to close the sections north and south of Kaikoura at night as a safety precaution. The opening hours will give our road crews enough daylight on either side to check the route after closing and before opening."

NZTA confirmed today that State Highway 1 both north and south of Kaikoura will only initially be open from 7am until 8.30pm once it reopens next month. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZTA confirmed today that State Highway 1 both north and south of Kaikoura will only initially be open from 7am until 8.30pm once it reopens next month. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The section north of Kaikoura will be closed at night between Clarence and Mangamaunu.

South of Kaikoura the night closure will be between Goose Bay and Peketa.

Crews will drive through both closure sites before 7am each day to ensure the road is safe for opening and another drive through will be carried out each evening to ensure all traffic has cleared the road before nightfall.

The number of work sites on SH1 will be reduced between December 15 and January 7 to help with traffic flow but will ramp up again after the holidays.

The reopening of SH1 on December 15 will give people two viable options for travel around the upper South Island, with the alternate route (via Lewis Pass) remaining a reliable option for travel.

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Crow says that whatever route people choose to take, the Transport Agency is urging them to allow plenty of extra time when planning their journeys and to check the latest conditions at least two hours before travel (and at key route decision points when driving) so that they can get to their destination safely in case of delays.

Information for people planning travel on either route is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c. The page will be updated regularly with more information - including photos and video footage - about what to expect on the route as the reopening date approaches.