Temporary road reopens vital lifeline for small town

The new temporary State Highway 4, left, and the old road, which was destroyed by a slip.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFF The new temporary State Highway 4, left, and the old road, which was destroyed by a slip.

A vital central North Island road and lifeline for a small rural town has reopened.

State Highway 4 between Whanganui and Raetihi has been closed since early October after an enormous slip destroyed the road about 18 kilometres south of Raetihi. This cut off a main route through Raetihi.

But the the New Zealand Transport Agency opened a temporary road on Friday, which will operate until roading officials can build a permanent, more resilient replacement road.

Remnants of the old road remain down the hillside towards the Mangawhero River, but the temporary road has been built on top of the slip, which was 30 to 50 metres deep.

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People were given a walk through of the temporary State Highway 4 road on Friday.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

People were given a walk through of the temporary State Highway 4 road on Friday.

The new tarseal road, built on the hillside, is open to all traffic, including trucks and buses, but has a 30kmh speed limit.

Agency regional transport systems manager Mark Owen said a huge effort had gone in to making sure the temporary road opened in a short space of time since the slip destroyed the road.

The slip has been monitored from the start and will continue to be.

The agency looked at other options for the temporary road, but once it the slip stopped moving the agency started work on the road.

"[The slip] is very deep-seated so there is always a risk it will move and we flagged that all the way through that it is only a temporary road," Owen said.

The road would be monitored closely and if GeoTech analysis showed anything untoward the road would close.

"The road itself has been well built, it just depends what happens on the land around it. Getting the water away is one of the key features. It takes away some of the risk in terms of that land movement instability."

Owen said there was more work to be done over the summer months and the agency was working on what the permanent solution would be.

Another team is exploring possible sites for a new road and should have answers next year.

New Zealand Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Mark Owen says a huge effort has gone into building the temporary road.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

New Zealand Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Mark Owen says a huge effort has gone into building the temporary road.

Ruapehu District Council's David Nottage, councillor for the Waimarino-Waiouru ward, said the road reopening was great.

"[The road is] a very important lifeline. Other places further down, at lease they have got SH3," he said.

"We've only got one highway through here and because it's on the fringe, we've missed out with people coming through Ohakune or the Desert Road and bypassing Raetihi."

He said SH4 was important in case snow or an accident closed SH1.

"That's what I was worried about. If there's an accident over there, all of a sudden the central North Island comes to gridlock."

Whanganui MP Harete Hipango said the reopening of the road was immensely significant due to the impact of the road closure on residents and businesses.

The part of the farm where the slip happened is known as Te Oreore, which means movements.

Slips are common in the hill country area.

The road was open to through traffic from midday.

Previously the detour via state highways 1, 49 and 3, added at least an hour to the trip between Raetihi and Whanganui.

A roadside map of where the slip on SH4 is.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

A roadside map of where the slip on SH4 is.

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