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Cyclone Gabrielle: New bridge plans at Puketapu revealed, Waikare bridge plans still on ice

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A start date for the long-awaited State Highway 2 Waikare Gorge realignment between Napier and Wairoa seems still unclear.

A decision on a resource consent application is still possibly four months away, despite submissions closing without any opposition.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has confirmed no submissions were received by the deadline earlier this month, but a decision appears likely to be made in July.

Separately, district councils have received three submissions on the Notice of Requirement, including one from landowners. It does not oppose the plans but seeks conditions.

Highways management agency NZTA / Waka Kotahi wants to discuss the conditions with the submitter in the hope of resolving the issues without the need for a hearing.

When it goes ahead, the realignment will be the biggest project on the Napier-Wairoa road in 15 years.

It will bypass Putorino, and the temporary river bridge built after the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle, with 3.1km of new highway and a gorge viaduct.

It is expected more will be explained in a series of five public meetings.

The meetings are for people to learn more about – and have input into – Cyclone Gabrielle recovery programmes planned by multi-party alliance Transport Rebuild East Coast (TREC).

The series starts next Monday at King George Hall, Bay View, followed by the Waikare and District Sports Club, at Putorino, on Tuesday, and the Te Pohue Golf Club on Wednesday, all timed for 5-7pm.

The power of the cyclone is vivid in this aerial view of Waikare Gorge bridge, highlighting more is needed than a temporary replacement and the already-planned 3.1km deviation which will eventually bypass it. Photo / Paul Taylor.
The power of the cyclone is vivid in this aerial view of Waikare Gorge bridge, highlighting more is needed than a temporary replacement and the already-planned 3.1km deviation which will eventually bypass it. Photo / Paul Taylor.

Nuhaka’s Kahungunu Marae will be the venue on March 25 (4-6pm), and the Wairoa Community Centre hosts the last on March 26 (5-7pm).

The “drop-in sessions” are for communities to get to know more about TREC’s recovery work, to “meet the team and share local knowledge,” a spokesperson says.

Views and feedback will be sought on potential long-term rebuild projects at Eskdale at the intersection of state highways 2 and 5, between Bay View and Eskdale, and SH2 at Devil’s Elbow.

Progress on the planned SH2 Waikare Gorge realignment project, and resilience sites being investigated along SH2 and SH5, will be discussed.

Puketapu’s new bridge

Near-simultaneously, the Hastings District Council has released a video impression of how a new Puketapu Bridge, about 15km by road, west of Napier, would appear in possibly as little as 15 months.

The council announced last October it is planning a permanent replacement for the 60-year-old, 22-metres-long, concrete Vicarage Rd bridge that was destroyed by the cyclone, and is targeting completion about mid-2025.

Site work as planning gets underway in earnest aimed at replacing the Puketapu Bridge by mid-2025. Photo / Warren Buckland
Site work as planning gets underway in earnest aimed at replacing the Puketapu Bridge by mid-2025. Photo / Warren Buckland

TREC Hawke’s Bay spokesperson Jacob Laird said hi-vis vests and hard hats are a common sight on the network and will be for a number of years.

“These drop in sessions are the perfect opportunity to meet some of the TREC team,” he said. “We want to hear from the people who live and work in these communities and who drive the state highway network regularly.”

The double hit for both road and rail was highlighted at Munn's Bridge, west of Eskdale on State Highway 5, several months after the cyclone. Photo / Paul Taylor.
The double hit for both road and rail was highlighted at Munn’s Bridge, west of Eskdale on State Highway 5, several months after the cyclone. Photo / Paul Taylor.

TREC is an alliance set up to plan, design and manage the delivery of much of the recovery and rebuild work needed on the state highway and rail networks along the East Coast, in partnership with local contractors and suppliers.

Since July when TREC was created, the focus has been on recovery work to restore access to parts of the State Highway network, such as the current work to build a retaining wall at Devil’s Elbow on State Highway 2.

Across Hawke’s Bay, more than 11 recovery sites have been completed from a total of 156, with a further 33 in construction and 53 in design, TREC reports.

Stretch of SH2 north of Napier closing overnight for recovery works

NZTA / Waka Kotahi said a stretch of the highway between Pan Pac Whirinaki and Tutira Store will be closed for two nights on April 8-10, from 9pm to 5am, for Devil’s Elbow rock removal, installation of a new culvert at Tangoio Falls and asphalting at Te Ngarue Stream Bridge.

No viable detour is available, the work is weather-dependent and the closures could be delayed to later in the week. Transport Rebuild East Coast system manager Martin Colditz said road users will need to plan around the closures.

Doug Laing is a senior reporter based in Napier with Hawke’s Bay Today, and has 50 years of journalism experience in news gathering, including breaking news, sports, local events, issues, and personalities.



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