Cyclone Gabrielle: Recovery could be longer than Christchurch with massive fix-up job required for damaged roads

The Prime Minister has appointed a Cyclone Recovery Minister, Grant Robertson, to oversee the rebuild of Cyclone Gabrielle's destruction.

It began on Monday with a $250 million injection into road funding, but that'll barely scrape the sides.

The road to Tiniroto was carved up by a force of water it simply could not handle. Gisborne residents are frustrated by their isolation.

Up the East Coast, everywhere you look Cyclone Gabrielle has left her mark.

In Hawke's Bay, one community has cleared the silt from their road. But it's still an utter mess.

Our State Highway network was torn to shreds by Cyclone Gabrielle. Bridges buckled under her pressure, hills tumbled onto highways, and silt seeped across vital routes. 

It cut off entire communities. 

"The damage is significant and on a scale not seen in New Zealand for at least a generation," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

The scale of the fixup job is beyond belief.

This is a map of the Gisborne region. All the black lines are the closed roads. The red lines show where the road is open with restrictions, so for instance, it might be down to one lane in parts.

Cyclone Gabrielle: Recovery could be longer than Christchurch with massive fix-up job required for damaged roads
Photo credit: NZTA.

The famous coastal highway State Highway 35 is broken. There is no way to get from Tolaga Bay to Te Puia as that one requires significant repairs. 

Gisborne to Wairoa is impassable to the public but they've managed to open it to critical supplies and essential services.

Gisborne to Ōpōtiki is cut off with only managed convoys twice a day for supplies. 

"There's a big journey ahead to respond, recover and rebuild and I want all of those in affected regions to know we will be with you on that journey," said Finance Minister Grant Robertson. 

And in Hawke's Bay, it's a sea of black. 

There's no access from Napier north to Wairoa. It's going to require significant repairs. 

State Highway 5 - the Napier-Taupo road - is in a state of disrepair. They're hoping to have that open to emergency vehicles by the end of the week.

Two bridges south of Napier are closed with single lanes open to critical services as their structural integrity is assessed. 

Cyclone Gabrielle: Recovery could be longer than Christchurch with massive fix-up job required for damaged roads
Photo credit: NZTA.

Many of the country's broken roads will need to move. 

"We have a large job ahead to determine which state and local roads can be rebuilt and which cannot or perhaps should not be replaced," said Robertson.

The Government's made the first of many funding announcements, $250 million to start to fix the roads.

The Finance Minister saw some of the damage on Sunday

"Some of those areas, you know, total wipeout of the bridges. You can imagine that takes a little bit of time but Waka Kotahi is prioritising based on lifelines, getting access for communities," said Robertson. 

National's Christopher Luxon is disappointed by the Government's announcements on Monday, saying they have provided no clarity to those on the ground.

"It's all been kicked to a taskforce at a time when everyday matters. People need to know whether they will get paid if they turn up to work tomorrow and the Government simply hasn't provided that clarity." 

Roads everywhere now roads to nowhere

Jenna Lynch Analysis

The Finance Minister and now Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson described the response as a rolling maul, incrementally funding stuff as they see the need.

In terms of business support, the Government has begun with a $50 million contingency fund for businesses, though the design and criteria for accessing that fund is still being worked through.  

But the infrastructure cost is going to be simply astronomical - 400km of our state roading network is currently being repaired - that's more than the whole way from Wellington to Taupō.

After Kaikoura, State Highway 1, one stretch of road took 18 months and millions and millions of dollars to fix.

This is going to take a very long time and a very large chunk of money.

Hearing from the Prime Minister that this is the greatest damage seen in a generation, think about what we've faced this generation: The Kaikōura earthquakes, the Christchurch earthquakes, the damage is bigger than those.

More than a decade on, Christchurch is still being rebuilt and some in Government are prepared for this to take even longer.