The big news this week has been the recommended two-month closure of State Highway 1 in the Byrnderwyn hills, the main arterial road between Auckland and Whangarei.
To reach the point where seemingly the only available option is to close our national highway for major resilience repairs is a devastating blow. We didn’t just wake up one day and get here by accident. This is a real life example of what happens when you under invest in road building and roading maintenance for decades. In short, a failure of leadership.
The phones have been running hot in the NRC offices with very worried members. Transport operators are already hanging by a thread, having endured the pandemic, the same bit of road being closed for 2 months earlier this year, and in the middle of a major economic slow down. Real people’s jobs, livelihoods and mental health all at risk if this closure goes ahead.
I can hear the absolute frustration from our members, so many I’ve spoken to who have been calling for this stretch of road to be by-passed for decades.
We agree with the need and support getting the road fixed as quickly as possible. No one wants to go through another winter (or summer for that matter) of slips and closures like the last one. But we’ve implored NZTA to look at all possible options.
I’ve spoken to senior leadership across NZTA, including Brett Gliddon the Group GM of Transport Services to raise this concern. They are listening, and understand the concerns. Whichever option they land on, they will work with us to manage any impacts, including on prioritising preparatory works on detour routes.
We expect to hear very soon if the road closure is going ahead. We earnestly hope that another option emerges. If it doesn’t, we are calling for the MBIE resilience fund to be reinstated and made available to Northland businesses, to pay for their extra transport costs. A Northland Inc. report commissioned to look at the cost impacts of the 58 days of Brynderwyn closures this year estimated the cost of transportation into Northland increased by $62m, more than a million dollars a day.
Next week I will be in Whangarei with Paula Rogers meeting with local government leaders and NZTA to work through this. Let’s hope a better solution emerges.
CEO | National Road Carriers Assn
DDI: +64 9 636 2951