Matthew Davison images reveal how quake town's road and rail links have been restored from ruination.
The scars left by the earthquake which tore Kaikoura asunder are healing. Railway tracks left twisted on sleepers by the magnitude 7.8 shake in November last year have been relaid with straight iron. Roads which cracked and slumped have been repaired. Slips which roared down mountainsides along the Pacific Ocean coast have been removed.
A year-long reconstruction job has transformed the ruined landscape at a costs of hundreds of millions of dollars. Scores of slips have been cleared and the town of Kaikoura is welcoming traffic.
Sixty-nine damaged bridges have been restored, including the 144m Irongate Bridge. Along one section engineers have designed 2.5km of seawall up to 10m high, and constructed road debris bridges which allow avalanche material to tumble underneath without destroying the structure. As many as 1400 workers have been employed on the highway rebuild. At its peak, the job strained New Zealand's concrete supply.
Firms which have done it hard while road and rail links were disrupted have resumed trading, just in time for the busy holiday weeks. Though the highway north has reopened, it remains closed overnight as a safety precaution. Geotechnical investigations are being undertaken to check how modified slopes above the highway behave in rain.
One of the coast's great attractions — Ohau Stream where seal pups gather and play in freshwater — remains out of bounds to tourists. Earthquake damage left the area near the creek unsafe. But there are still seals to be seen at the Kaikoura Peninsula, just south of the town. The settlement itself is hoping for a summer that sees tourists replace the army of workers in their high-viz vests.