Kaikoura earthquake: 'Some realignment' to SH1 needed - Bridges

State Highway 1, north of Kaikoura, following Monday's quake (Getty)
State Highway 1, north of Kaikoura, following Monday's quake (Getty)

There's no doubt the quake-damaged section of State Highway 1 (SH1) north of Kaikoura will need to moved, says Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

But whether that means it will no longer hug the picturesque coastline remains to be figured out.

Mr Bridges visited the region on Wednesday, and told Paul Henry that photographs of the slips don't reveal the sheer scale of the destruction.

"These slips are massive. You can't underestimate at any level the amount of work, the complexity of the engineering work that's going to be involved to have to do something, to fix it and get State Highway 1 back."

NZTA officials are already on the ground, talking to companies like Fulton Hogan and Downers about what options are available, but Mr Bridges says it's clear something has to change.

"This is a bit simplistic, but there are two choices - at one end, there's let's get in and do emergency work and fix this; at the other end it's let's take - no one wanted this to happen - the opportunity to really improve this and do a much better job."

Though he hopes any re-routing of SH1 sticks "broadly" to the coast to keep tourists happy, he says it's a "false choice" between just fixing it up and finding a new route.

"The truth is we are not going to be able to, in terms of safety, in terms of making sure this sort of thing just doesn't happen again in a number of years, put it back exactly as it was. There will need to be some realignment, some complex engineering work."

He says insurance will cover the cost of any fix to SH1 or the accompanying rail line, but improvements will have to be paid for by the Government.

"We'll work our way through that - I don't think those are issues to be concerned about."

Kaikoura earthquake: 'Some realignment' to SH1 needed - Bridges

Damage to SH1 near Kaikoura (Getty)

An inland route to Kaikoura along SH70 will hopefully be open to the public by the weekend. At the moment it's being used by emergency vehicles only.

"Military, ambulance, food supplies and the like," says Mr Bridges.

"We're confident by this weekend we'll have that up and running [for the public]. It'll be part-single lane; it won't be the best journey people have ever taken."

A number of bridges along SH70 still need to be checked before the road is fully opened.


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