17 Dec 2015

Cut off locals 'rapt' Whanganui access now open

6:00 am on 17 December 2015

Locals of the upper reaches of the Whanganui River are delighted a new bridge is opening that will clear the road into Whanganui in time for Christmas.

Access to the city has been blocked at Pipiriki since June, when major slips were caused by severe flooding.

The small Māori settlement of Pipiriki was stranded after massive slips washed out the road to Raetihi (pictured) and the road that connects it to the city of Whanganui.

The small Māori settlement of Pipiriki was stranded after massive slips washed out the road to Raetihi (pictured) and the road that connects it to the city of Whanganui. Photo: SUPPLIED / Ruapehu District Council

Ruapehu District Council mayor Don Cameron said Pipiriki residents even had to tough it out through slips to make the trip north to Raetihi.

"Some of them parked their 4WD motorbikes by the first slip, hopped on it, went across, picked their car up on the other side and went to Raetihi to get their groceries" he said.

The flooding in June was the worst the region had ever seen and isolated many pockets of the Whanganui River Road community.

The Upokonui bridge replaces a large washed out culvert.

Raetihi resident Rangi Bristol travels the road regularly and said it has been a nuisance but that people expected it from those back roads.

"I am sure it is going to improve it 100 percent getting access without any problems."

Josephine Haworth and her husband Ken run Whanganui River Adventures in Pipiriki, which has been hurt by the lack of access.

"We have had to actually send our people all the way around SH4 and it's an extra half an hour on top of their time," she said.

"At this time of year we are usually flat out with campervans coming to stay in our camp ground but they haven't been able to because they are all driving down SH4 now."

The Haworths were positive that the new bridge will solve the problem.

"We are both pretty rapt that it is finally going to be finished and we can get on with our tourism for the summer," she said.

Mr Cameron said more and more tourists were travelling the river road.

"Nearly 4000 cyclist alone are going through there. On top of that you have got hikers doing the Te Ara Roa trail from Cape to Bluff and also campervans and general tourists."

A ceremony will be held at Paraweka Marae in Pipiriki today and a ribbon will be cut to officially open Upokonui bridge.

The small Māori settlement of Pipiriki was stranded after massive slips washed out the road to Raetihi (pictured) and the road that connects it to the city of Whanganui.

A massive slip on the washed out the road to Raetihi in June. Photo: SUPPLIED / Ruapehu District Council

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