19 Dec 2016

Kaikōura inland route to fully reopen today

6:23 am on 19 December 2016

A main road into Kaikōura reopens today for the first time since the quake.

Cars and trucks line up as drivers wait for the all clear to go through the inland route to Kaikoura.

Cars and trucks wait to to to go through the inland route to Kaikōura in an escorted convoy on 5 December. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Access via the inland route has been limited to once-a-day convoys in either direction and the road has often been closed due to the risk posed by slips created by the earthquake.

The road is due to fully reopen today, though work continues on some sections and there will be speed restrictions and traffic controls in place.

Transport Agency regional performance manager Pete Connors said the journey between Mount Lyford and Kaikōura may still take longer than usual but the road was in good condition.

Anton Evans, owner of Kaikōura business Hunting and Fishing, lost 95 percent of his business after the quakes shut off roads and isolated the town.

His shop relied almost entirely on visitors and reopening the route would boost sales by 25 percent, he said.

There was still lots to draw tourists to the area, he said, and fish stocks were high after fishing reduced after the quake.

Dennis Buurmann, who runs the tourist adventure business Kaikōura Encounters, said the community would feel less isolated with the road opening - and that was comforting.

He said for the first time in five weeks his business had fully-booked days.

"We've already filled the capacity for that boat for that trip on the day.

"It's only small numbers in comparison to what we normally carry but certainly shows that there's a desire for people to experience marine mammals."

Daniel Jenkins of Kaikōura Cheese said the road was back in the nick of time and would allow them to fill their Christmas orders.

Mr Jenkins said with 70 percent of sales to visitors, having the road open again in time for the holidays was crucial.

State Highway 1 south of Kaikōura is also likely to reopen on Wednesday.

Mr Connors said that route south would only be open during daylight hours.

He said due to 29 rock-fall sites, which still needed attention, and single lane use in some areas, driving at night could be risky.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs