20 Sep 2016

Slip could be costing Taranaki $250,000 a day

8:29 pm on 20 September 2016

Taranaki is paying a heavy price for a massive slip which has closed State Highway 3 at Mokau and cut the region off from the country's economic power house in the north.

There have been five major slips at the Mokau Bluff since 2009.

There have been five major slips at the Mokau Bluff since 2009. Photo: Photo / NZTA

Drivers are having to take arduous detours and conservative estimates put the direct economic impact to the region at hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

State Highway 3 - the only route into Taranaki from the north - has been closed since Sunday after tonnes of rocks slid down the Mokau Bluffs, in the fifth slip there since 2009.

The NZTA's recommended diversion via SH1 to Whanganui adds hundreds of kilometres and an extra three-and-a-half hours to a one-way trip.

Road Transport Association area executive Tom Cloke said the diversion was costing trucking companies between $1000 and $1500 extra per trip.

"Some of the clients say 'well that's your stiff luck, mate. If you've got to pay more to get the stuff here. That's your problem'. So of course they're hurting, it's more hurt in difficult economic times.

"This just puts greater pressure on and I think is that one of the things that has to happen is a realisation that this is a transit route and we need to get that road open as quickly a possible."

Mr Cloke said the 450 truck movements on SH3 each day accounted for just under 25 percent of all traffic on the route and, when they could not get through, the effect was soon felt.

"We are seeing already within the 48 hours some of the freight that is just not able to get in and that's having an economic impact on the Taranaki area.

"There's actually about $10 million of freight a day that goes over State Highway 3."

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said a study it commissioned revealed the dire cost to the region when SH3 was closed.

"The last closure around Awakino, it was estimated every single day it was costing in direct additional costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars so, over those four days, we're talking a million dollar direct impact."

A massive slip which has closed State Highway 3 at Mokau in South Waikato is hitting transport companies in the back pocket.

Photo: Screenshot / GoogleMaps

Mr Trundle said, in addition, there were intangible costs, due to missed investment opportunities and a loss of confidence in the region.

He said it was important the government recognised the strategic value of state highways to the regions and the national economy.

"It's critical that those state highways that are the arterial lifeblood to regional New Zealand are not only maintained but maintained at a standard of safety that gives continuity of supply throughout the year."

Millions of dollars of work scheduled - NZTA

NZTA performance manager Karen Boyt said it was aware of how important SH3 was to Taranaki and $130m of work was scheduled in the area between now and 2020.

"The projects at this stage, there is the Mt Messenger bypass, the Awakino tunnel bypass and there's also a package of work called the safety and resilience improvement.

"So that's looking at the whole corridor and what can we provide from a resilience perspective between the Mt Messenger bypass and the Awakino tunnel bypass."

NZTA has $130 million of work scheduled for the Awakino area which will include bypassing the Mt Messenger tunnel.

NZTA has $130m of work scheduled for the Awakino area, which will include bypassing the Mt Messenger tunnel. Photo: Rob Tucker/VT

In the meantime, Ms Boyt said attention would be turned to finding a solution to the Mokau Bluffs slip.

"So the solution we put in place in 2012 was the right one at that time. It did contain all the smaller slips that came down up until now.

"But yes will look to design the right long-term solution for that rock face once we determine what's left behind there."

Mr Trundle had a wider vision, however, and wanted to see an east-west corridor developed that would allow goods to be transported to New Plymouth to be shipped across the Tasman.

"This is just what one rain even does therefore this is what I would term ongoing repairs and maintenance.

"So these costs are just about maintaining the status quo, but at what point do we take a transformational approach rather than a business as usual approach."

NZTA said it hoped to have State Highway 3 open on Thursday.

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