Quake-hit SH1 reopens south of Kaikōura

7:00 pm on 21 December 2016

State Highway 1 to the south of Kaikōura has re-opened for the first time since the 14 November 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Work being done to clear slips blocking State Highway 1.

Slips on SH1 near Kaikōura: The town has been unreachable via the coastal highway since last month's earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The section of the major coastal highway had been closed since the earthquake, which brought down massive boulders and slips on the road, cutting off the town from north and south.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced the reopening of the road this afternoon.

He said re-establishing access to Kaikōura remained the number one priority.

"Road crews have been working 12-hour days, seven days a week, to get the highway south of Kaikōura re-opened in time for the busy holiday period," Mr Bridges said.

"They've put in more than 10,000 hours of work over the last month to get to this point, removing more than 50,000 cubic metres of rock and material in more than 7000 truckloads from 26 slips along the route."

About 20 cars were lined up at the road block when it was removed at 2.45pm, including some drivers waiting since midday.

One of them, Kaikōura local Mark Sandford, said the highway took about an hour less to travel from Christchurch than the inland route, which fully reopened yesterday.

"I've done the inland road and it's a long, long trip really. To get to Christchurch it'll be a lot better, and especially tourists coming up."

Some restrictions still in place

The SH1 route would have night-time restrictions, and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said these would remain until all slip faces had been stabilised and traffic signals had been installed along a 1km coastal section, where there was single-lane access only.

Access would be two-way and only during daylight hours, from 6am to 8pm. The last vehicles would be admitted to travel along SH1 south from Peketa at 7.30pm. Vehicles travelling north from Christchurch would be advised to leave the city by 5.30pm to ensure they got through to Kaikōura before the road closed at Oaro at 7.15pm.

No stopping or camping would be allowed along the route, although there would be designated rest areas.

Earthquake damage to State Highway 1,south of Kaikoura on November

Damage to SH1, south of Kaikōura, shortly after the earthquake Photo: AFP

State highway 1 opens

A separate section of the route south of the town shortly before it reopened Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Yesterday, the inland route to the town was open without restrictions for the first time since the earthquake.

There were speed restrictions on the inland route, and no stopping areas. NZTA said the average travel time for the 90km route from Waiau to Kaikōura was about two hours.

SH1 would remain closed to traffic travelling from Christchurch to Picton. The road would be open between Picton and Clarence, and from Cheviot to Oaro.

Mr Bridges also announced the formation of an transport infrastructure alliance - a mix of government agencies and construction firms - to repair the damaged road and rail network.

The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance includes the NZTA, KiwiRail, Fulton Hogan, Downer, Higgins and HEB Construction.

The alliance will focus on reinstating the rail and road network between Oaro and the Clarence River.

It will also manage the state highway corridor between Picton and Christchurch via Murchison and Lewis Pass.

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Photo: NZTA

Meanwhile, some quake weary families in the region got a special visitor today, when former All Black captain Richie McCaw and Santa helicoptered in deliveries of food and wine.

The deliveries were organised by the charitable trust Miss Lilly's Angels, and donations included meat, chocolate, wine and Christmas presents.

Miss Lilly's Angels said the food and wine was delivered to selected families and individuals today in Kaikōura and in outlying areas between Culverden and Awatere Valley.