Manawatu residents pinched by eight-week gorge closure

Business owners and residents of a small Manawatu town are feeling the pinch nearly two months after the closure of the Manawatu Gorge.

April's slip has meant fewer vehicles are coming through Woodville - and those that are, aren't stopping.

When John Preston moved to Woodville to open his fabric shop last year, he knew slips and slow periods came with the territory. He just didn't know long they can last.

"To start with we thought, 'Well, we'll ride it out and have a nice holiday in the States,' but we come back and it's still closed," he told Newshub.

Woodville lies straight out of the eastern side of the Manawatu Gorge. April's slip is the third to close the gorge in six years.

Julia Clarke has lived in Woodville for 30 years and says the town isn't whining - it's frustrated with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and its response.

"If there's any accidents or emergencies we've got to go the long way or be flown over," she told Newshub.

"We want our gorge open and we want a reasonable answer why it keeps falling down."

The NZTA has continually revised the re-opening date for the gorge and says it'll be at least three weeks before it'll know when things will be back to normal.

"At the moment we're analysing the information in the geotechnical report," NZTA Highway Manager Ross l'Anson told Newshub.

"Once we've done that, we'll have a good idea if we need to carry out any more physical works before we can open the gorge."

The alternative route is the Saddle Road. It doesn't take much longer to traverse than the gorge, and still ends before Woodville's town limits - but it's a more difficult drive.

"The track is not a very good road to go over, the Saddle is deteriorating," Ms Clarke said.

"The trucks are finding it hard coming over. It's not just the small people in the town it's the truck companies, it's the people going to work."

Every weekend Eric Bodell sits on the pavement selling raffle tickets to help fund his radio station, and watches the traffic.

He says fewer vehicles are coming through and those that do, don't stop.

And he's got a theory about why people aren't stopping: psychology.

"People just get the idea, 'Hey we've taken a little bit longer to get here so maybe we just keep going to get to our destination rather than stopping in-between'," he said.

Many businesses and residents Newshub spoke had the same message for the NZTA: they don't want sympathy, they want solutions.

And for a town that depends on passing trade, every day without a solution is another day lost.

Newshub.

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