State highway potholes plaguing Hawke's Bay motorists

By Lauren Crimp for RNZ

A Central Hawke's Bay tyre repair shop's services are in hot demand as recent heavy rain has been a recipe for potholes.

The state highway network in Hawke's Bay and Tai Rāwhiti has been heavily damaged, with some roads - already fragile after cyclones Gabrielle and Hale - still closed, and others crumbling after last week's downpours.

Wayne Makris from Central Hawke's Bay Tyre Specialists in Waipukurau said he would usually see one or two pothole-damaged tyres a month, but on Tuesday alone his team fixed six.

"It's keeping us busy," he said, "but it's not good for the customers really, when they're coming back a week, sometimes 30 minutes later, getting another tyre put on.

"We had a young couple a couple of weeks ago that put four new tyres on, drove out of Waipawa, and I got a phone call saying it's coming back on a trailer because he hit a pothole and he actually burst the tyre."

Makris said a lot of customers were unhappy with the state of the roads, but he felt for contractors trying to repair them.

"They can't do much when it's wet, it's gotta be dry. And with the heavy rain, it's just opened [the potholes] up."

Waka Kotahi said in a statement it expected to see more potholes appear during wet weather, and crews were working on State Highways 2 and 5 specifically to fill them.

"While the wet weather over the past few months has kept maintenance crews busy dealing with surface flooding, slips, fallen trees, debris and road closures, repairing potholes is a priority," a spokesperson said.

"We realise how important it is to ensure potholes are repaired and filled as quickly and safely as possible, for the safety of all road users."

The agency said it had a duty of care to maintain the state highway network, but by their nature, roads deteriorated over time.

"It is not possible to maintain the entire 11,000km of state highway in a defect-free condition, and due to this we strongly encourage all motorists to have insurance cover and to drive to the conditions."

People whose tyres were damaged by potholes on state highways could claim compensation from Waka Kotahi - but it would only be granted if it was decided the agency or its contractors had not taken reasonable care to maintain the road.