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The Kaikoura earthquake destroyed parts of State Highway 1 and the railway line along the South Island coast between Picton and Christchurch, perhaps closing that route south for ever

Editorial December 2016 / January 2017

The Kaikoura earthquake has not only shaken up the South Island, but is likely to place even more pressure on New Zealand’s construction sector.

As I sit down to write this editorial, there are continuing aftershocks from the Kaikoura earthquake, demolition of some of Wellington’s multi-level buildings is underway, and the NZ Transport Agency has scrambled to open up an alternative route to State Highway 1 to reconnect Picton with Christchurch.

The damage to the main road and rail links along that stretch of coastline has been astonishing. Engineer friends who were first on the scene to assess the damage have sent graphic images of roads torn in half and rail lines shunted off the tracks and twisted beyond repair. The slips – estimated to be in the tens of thousands – will take months, if not years, to clear. The former route of SH1 and the railway line is probably closed for ever.

The issue of the road raises questions for how we build resilience into our principal transport networks. It’s not simply a matter of designating one of the other highways as the main route south. Some of those other state highways are not configured to take the volumes of traffic, nor the sheer weight and size of modern-day freight vehicles – the routes are windy and narrow, meaning passing opportunities are limited. There are too many one-lane bridges, which may or may not be strong enough to take the increased level of traffic.

The ports of Auckland and Lyttelton should be commended for their rapid response to the disaster, working with KiwiRail and coastal shipping operators to establish a direct freight connection between the two ports using their inland hubs and rail connections. There have been calls for more roll-on roll-off (RORO) facilities at our ports so that even more use can be made of our coastal shipping network.

In the meantime, the rebuild in Christchurch marches on, and Auckland can’t build houses fast enough to meet demand. The government’s roads of national significance programme will finally have all seven projects underway or completed, and we may even see a new stadium on Auckland’s waterfront – now that’s something to look forward to! It promises to be an interesting year ahead for our building and construction industry.

My thanks, as always, to those organisations that have welcomed me and my team of writers onto their sites. It’s been a real privilege to see such world-class, best-practice construction in action. On behalf of the NZCN team, I wish you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

Until next time …
Lynne Richardson
, editor


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