Weather: Concerns over future of East Coast's roading network after heavy rain hits

There are serious questions about the future of the East Coast's roading network as mass closures leave communities stranded indefinitely.

Resilience repairs earlier this year have failed to stop severe damage on multiple state highways this week after heavy rain hit the area, and now solutions are few and far between.

After the weekend's weather, there isn't a single aspect of life in East Cape that isn't sodden. Above all, the roads took a beating.

"Just checking access now to see if we can get to work," one local told Newshub.

Seventy-nine roads are in need of repair in Tairāwhiti and 40 of them closed this week alone.

"It's depressing, it never seems to go away. The roads don't handle much, do they? So what do you do?" another local told Newshub.

Repairs are underway in some places but questions are being raised about whether the repairs, and efforts to make the network more resilient, are working at all.

In October 2021, Waka Kotahi NZTA released a promotional video advertising resilience work on State Highway 50 connecting Hawke's Bay to the rest of the North Island. But after all that work, that stretch of road was washed out by the rain this week.

"That's one that hits home. It's in my electorate, it services an area that I represent. With climate change, we're getting severe weather that's going to be more frequent," said Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty.

Waipiro Bay Road.
Waipiro Bay Road. Photo credit: Tairāwhiti Civil Defence

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said the roading network needs to be invested in.

"We've said that actually our roading network has been run down over the past six years and we need to invest back in it to make sure it is climate resilient but also to make sure we don't have 54,000 potholes in it."

McAnulty said: "There's $279 million that was announced to go into state highways purely for resilience work. It was kind of kept under the radar a bit but that money's there and it has to be used as quick as we possibly can."

Waitangi Road.
Waitangi Road. Photo credit: Tairāwhiti Civil Defence

But with the Government and Opposition making promises, Hawke's Bay locals just want results.

"They always take the cheap option and the quick option, rather than doing to job correctly. Do it once and do it right and let's see if we can keep it open," said Hawke's Bay farmer Hamish Bibby.

In Tiniroto south of Gisborne, the community is on its last legs. The rain this week has once again cut it off. Mudslides and surface flooding have led to road closures everywhere you look.

"With all this weather the access is the big issue. We've got friends up there and their bridge is gone," said local farmer Diesel Coop.

It's a network that simply can't take anymore and people there can't either.

"It's getting harder and hard, really," Coop said. "If we can't get stock through, we can't pay the bills."

Back in Gisborne central the sun was out on Sunday, but some of the locals have lost their shine.

"Bloody terrible at the moment, this weather is driving us all mad. It is what it is, just got to keep moving on."