The Parapara section of State Highway 4 is vital and will be brought back to two lanes - but the NZ Transport Agency says it can't say how long it will take.

"I'm reluctant to commit. We haven't got an alignment. It's 500m and it will take weeks to months," regional performance manager Mark Owen said, when fronting more than 100 affected people at a public meeting in a Raetihi on Thursday.

"We just hope that dollars aren't the reason not to just push forward," a woman from a nearby station said.

Owen said the road closure was categorised as emergency works, which freed up finance.

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"It's not a money thing. It's a matter of finding the best and most resilient solution."

He warned the road would always be subject to slips, and he didn't think a completely new route would be viable.

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"It's tiger country. It always will be. Building another road will inevitably be expensive and slow."

The chunk of earth that began sliding downhill earlier this month is 80m high and 30 to 50m deep. It's still moving, he said. Another piece just as big could still go.

"If we put [the road] back, that could also go."

NZTA's first response has been to put in signs and road blocks. Next it wants to get one lane open to all traffic, including trucks, as soon as possible. Managers from the Kaikoura earthquake response are helping.

A long-term two-lane solution comes next. It could be on the same alignment, or a different one. SH4 simply has to be available as an alternative to SH1, Owen said.

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The agency was already planning to upgrade the Parapara this summer. That will still happen.

The Parapara State Highway 4 slip. Photo / Mark Brimblecombe
The Parapara State Highway 4 slip. Photo / Mark Brimblecombe

Medical transfers have been an issue. An ambulance will be kept in southern Ruapehu at all times, Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said. People with minor problems will be taken by road to Taumarunui, Whanganui and Palmerston North hospitals.

People in a critical state will be helicoptered to Whanganui or Palmerston North - which has happened four times in the last two weeks. A flying hour costs $5500 and Whanganui District Health Board is worried about its budget.

Meanwhile the alternatives routes, Field's Track/Whangaehu Valley Rd and the Whanganui River Road, are taking more traffic and getting more patrols and maintenance.

Some have complained of too many cars on the Whanganui River Road. But a woman from Ranana said it was good for tourism, and a council officer suggested extending the hours of a shop there.

Field's Track will be closed for four hours on November 1, for the Targa Rally.

Before the slip 365 trucks travelled the Parapara each day, National Road Carriers Association executive officer Tom Cloke said. All trucks have been asked to use the SH1 alternative - unless they are servicing farms on the local roads.

There are three logging crews working the Parapara, McCarthy Transport chief executive Steve McDougall said. The road closure was a huge inconvenience.

With people bypassing the town, Raetihi businesses say they are feeling the lack of custom. Cameron said they needed to get together and come up with a plan to entice people - perhaps lunch at a cafe and a visit to The Dinosaur House.

Business owners were unlikely to get compensation unless the road closure extended for more than a year.

NZTA says it will alter road signs to let people know Raetihi is still open for business.

People who want to contact NZTA about the closure can email sh4matahiwi@nzta.govt.nz.