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The hole where SH25a once stood now measures around 110 metres across. Photo: WAKA KOTAHI

Kōpū-Hikuai Rd fix ‘may take a year’

It will be nine months to a year before the Kōpū-Hikuai Rd is fully re-opened in the Coromandel, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says.

Waka Kotahi regional manager of infrastructure Jo Wilton said a solution was still being worked on to fix the Kōpū-Hikuai Rd, State Highway 25A, after a huge slip near the summit destroyed more than 110 metres of road after several storms in January.

“There are three main options for reinstating this highway. One – we build a bridge replacing the lost section of road; two – we build a deviation which bypasses the slip site; three – we build a retaining wall and effectively rebuild the road from the ground up,” Ms Wilton said.

“We don’t know which option is most feasible yet. The right solution cannot be established until the geotech work is complete. We know the rebuild must be resilient and as timely as possible. We understand how critical this highway is for Coromandel residents, businesses, and visitors.”

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson said the news was not surprising.

“I think over the last week or two everybody has become aware of just the size and the magnitude of the problem on State Highway 25A,” he said.

“I, and [Thames Coromandel District Mayor] Len Salt, will be putting the pressure on NZTA and the government to ensure that the 12 months that they’re talking about is an absolute maximum. Hopefully it will be less than that and not longer.”

State Highway 25 needed to be a priority for the government, Mr Simpson said. He was concerned for the businesses of the Coromandel Peninsula, who had already been feeling the pinch after a stormy summer and two years of restrictions due to Covid-19.

“The real issue is the time frame and the implications that having State Highway 25A closed for a year means for residents and visitors to the region,” he said.

“We are about to go into autumn and then into winter. Those are not the best months for trading around the peninsula. So many businesses are literally hanging by a thread, and for some of those businesses the owners are going to have to make some very hard tough decisions, probably sooner rather than later.”

Waka Kotahi said the slip site had deteriorated further following cyclone Gabrielle in mid-February. Some cracks across the road near each edge of the slip had widened, but there has been no further movement at this stage.

“The Hikuai side of the slip is high and possibly unstable. Assessment of the stability of this slope is underway,” Ms Wilton said.

“The next step is to construct a temporary track, to allow access for a geotech drilling rig up to the site of a potential deviation above the slip area. We also need to form another access track to the base of the slip where a retaining wall could be founded, but the ground is too wet to do this yet. Until we can get a rig in – we can’t get significant testing done.”

Ms Wilton said the tracks would likely be in place in approximately two weeks, subject to weather. 

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Journalism funded by NZ on Air.