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A temporary bypass is currently in place at Jacob’s Ladder north of Kaikoura – this area suffered a double whammy after ex-cyclone Gita dumped 200,000 cu m of material across the road early in 2018

Kaikoura earthquake recovery transport project nearing the end

The end is in sight for the highway and rail rebuild along State Highway 1 (SH1) north and south of Kaikoura, as well as the inland route to Waiau, following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in November 2016.


The NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance, working on the reinstatement of the highway and the Main North Line, say the majority of construction should finish in late 2020, with NCTIR’s handover work wrapping up in December 2020.

Steve Mutton, chair of the NCTIR board, and Tony Gallagher, programme director, NCTIR, at the Peketa tunnel south of Kaikoura

Steve Mutton, chair of the NCTIR board, says the project is now moving into its final phase. “A work package for the remainder of the work was scoped earlier this year and has now been agreed by the Transport Agency and KiwiRail. These new projects are on the Inland Road (Route 70) between Waiau and Kaikoura and on SH1 north and south of the town,” he says.

“We’ve been on the ground in Kaikoura since the earthquake in 2016 and have come a long way. The road and rail were reopened in 2017, but since then we’ve been making many temporary fixes permanent. We are working to leave a safer and more resilient transport network for people to enjoy and travel on safely for generations to come.”

Safety improvements

Currently, the teams are constructing six safe stopping areas, following the completion of the first at Ohau Point last October, and making safety improvements to the route, such as realigning sections of road, installing double centre lines to keep traffic further apart and installing safety barriers. Work is also underway at a number of sites to further improve the resilience of the Main North Line.

“The works will be delivered within the original Crown-funded budget of $1.2 billion set in July 2017. The Transport Agency and KiwiRail are prioritising the remaining work to make these transport corridors safer and more reliable,” says Mr Mutton. The total spend remaining for the NCTIR programme is close to $260 million.

(Above) The transport corridor at Jacob’s Ladder north of Kaikoura in February 2018 following ex-cyclone Gita and (below) one month later

Design elements

NCTIR is working with the Transport Agency and Te Runanga o Kaikoura on design elements to ensure the cultural and historical importance of Kaikoura is reflected in the structures being built on the state highway. Landscape design work is also underway to help integrate the safe stopping areas into the coastal environment.

“We’ve recently reached the milestone of five million work hours on the Kaikoura earthquake recovery and many of our team have been here since the start,” says Mr Mutton. “I’d like to acknowledge all the women and men who worked those hours in all sorts of conditions, and those who continue to come to work each day to help build a uniquely special transport corridor for the people of Kaikoura and its many visitors. We believe it will provide a benefit for generations to come and it is a project we can all be proud of.”

For more information on the NCTIR project, click here

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