Waka Kotahi’s recommended closure of State Highway 1 through the Brynderwyn Hills for road repairs would be a devastating blow for transport operators serving Northland and the Northland community says National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO Justin Tighe-Umbers.
“Many transport operators and businesses are hanging by a thread and a two-month closure of the main arterial at the second busiest time of year would push some to collapse unless they receive Government support,” says Tighe-Umbers. “If it goes ahead it would be yet another serious hit after a triple whammy of pandemic, cyclone and economic slowdown.”
“We understand this work must be done as quickly as possible before the wet season and we want the resilience works to be done once and done right, so the existing road stays open until the new bypass is built. But trucking operators are asking Waka Kotahi to find a better way to get it done without shutting State Highway 1 for another two months.”
He said there is enormous frustration amongst transport operators who have been calling for a bypass for decades now, but the calls have fallen on deaf ears and now they are forced to pay the price.
Tighe-Umbers said NRC’s phones have been running red hot with calls from its road transport operator members who are hugely concerned about the closure. “They are worried about the safety of detour routes, many of which are potholed and not designed for heavy haulage trucks, and they are worried for their livelihoods.”
One of the proposed detours through Dargaville would add 140 kilometres to the return journey between Auckland and Whangarei and drive up the cost to transport goods between Auckland and Whangarei by around 30 per cent. Many customers simply cannot afford to pay that much extra.
“A truck running from Takanini to Whangarei wouldn’t be able to make it back in a single day, as drivers run out of hours and must have a ten-hour break. That means another truck would have to be put on, which isn’t always possible, and leads to yet more cost.”
A report commissioned by Northland Inc calculated that the 58 days of closure earlier this year cost $62 million in additional transport costs.
Tighe-Umbers says in the event of a closure NRC will work closely with Waka Kotahi on developing safe and as efficient as possible detour routes for heavy freight vehicles.
He says NRC would call for the re-establishment of a resilience relief fund to enable vulnerable Northland businesses to claim support from for transport and other cost increases.
“We are now seeing a real-world example of the pain and harm caused by under investing in our infrastructure – real people end up paying the price in jobs, livelihoods and mental health.”