Buller District Council

Karamea Highway will be open to escorted traffic three times a day

Buller District Council will implement from tomorrow (Monday 14 February 2022) a traffic control plan for the Karamea Highway that will allow escorted traffic to access and leave Karamea three times a day.

Manager infrastructure delivery Eric de Boer says: “Traffic over the Karamea Bluff will initially be allowed in convoys at set times, using the “follow me” system. This is to control access through some one-lane sections of the hill on each side, ensure peoples safety, and allow repair work to be carried out.”

Vehicles will be escorted over the Karamea Bluff at 9am, 1pm, and 5pm from tomorrow onwards. People who want to leave or access Karamea need to queue at the closure sites on both ends at these times.

The closure point on the south side of the bluff (Westport) is at the base of the bluffs near the Mokihinui bridge pullover bay. The closure point at the northern end (Karamea) is located near Lake Hanlon/Stone Kingdom/Kahurangi Heights area.

Traffic will be escorted to the other end with a stop mid-journey at Corbyvale to let traffic from the opposite direction safely pass.

Speed of the traffic during the 25km escort will be controlled by contractors. There are many single lane areas that traffic has to pass through and care needs to be taken.

This opportunity will only be open to traffic that is present at the closure sites at the set times.

People need to arrange their journey plans to coincide with the scheduled opening times and allow for potential delays during the 25km escort.

In an emergency situation road users need to contact staff at the closure points or call 111.

To inform the public signage has been installed on State Highway 67 near the Pines Tavern as well as Mokihinui Lewis Street corner and the Little Wanganui bridge.

“Looking at the extensive damage, the Karamea Highway will not be fully repaired for some time. The highway will remain closed to free-flowing traffic for at least the next seven days to carry out repairs. The scheduled opening hours will enable residents and supplies to access and leave Karamea during this time,” Eric says.

An extensive rebuild programme is currently being planned based on geotechnical advice gathered over
the past few days.

The section of the Karamea highway over the Karamea Bluff was severely damaged by slips triggered by heavy rain during the latest two weather events, which struck the Buller District over the past two weeks.

Road access to and from Karamea has been cut off since Wednesday 9 February 2022.

WestReef staff and their contractors are currently working on removing about 30 large slips and they have widened several areas to allow escorted vehicles to safely pass through this most severely affected section of the highway.

“Apart from the many slips, at some locations the hill beneath parts of the highway dropped 30 – 40 metres and work to repair these areas is not expected to start until appropriate ground stabilization equipment can be bought in to access these areas,” Eric says.

“The highway is safe to open to controlled traffic but a lot of work needs to be done to get this section of road back to where it was.”

Buller District Council understands the importance of the highway to the Karamea community and are working with Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency to ensure all repairs will be designed and built with safety and resilience as a priority.

In short:

  • The road over the Karamea bluff remains CLOSED until 9am tomorrow (Monday 14 February)
  • From tomorrow, the road will open for managed travel three times per day
  • Managed travel will be ongoing for at least a week
  • Long-term repair plans are underway, and are likely to take a long time

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