Isolated residents may be forced to wait two months for bridge to reconnect cyclone-ravaged areas

Waka Kotahi has revealed cutoff communities between Napier and Wairoa will have to wait up to two months for a Bailey bridge, to connect the crucial Waikari River link.

Transport Minister Michael Wood announced on Thursday three new temporary bridges to replace the ones at Hikuwai, Rissington and Putorino.  

State Highway 2 between Napier and Wairoa, now ends after the tiny settlement of Putorino.

The bridge over the Waikari River was obliterated in Cyclone Gabrielle and frustration is growing by the day in the isolated communities nearby.

"We are not getting concrete answers about when things are going to happen," Putorino builder Simon Drinkrow said. 

"We've got lambs ready to go now, about 1000 lambs ready to go now, that we are going to have to hold onto," added local farmer Pagen Goldstone.

Putorino's Lisa Grant runs 1200 stock across three farms. Two are on one side of the Waikari river, one on the other.

Her only way over now is a flying fox and a small boat.

"I've been stranded on our run-off farm since day one and got out yesterday," Grant said.

More than 20 access routes, big and small, are cut off across Tairāwhiti and Hawke's Bay.

"Some of this work will take time, and so our government’s focus is installing interim measures while long term solutions are investigated," said Transport Minister Michael Wood.

"Putting a bridge back is not as easy as it may sound, if it's on a straight and level, great that's easy, but when you look at Waikari, that's on a slope and in a very difficult gully," Waka Kotahi's national emergency response team leader Mark Owen said.

He insists the vital link between Napier and Wairoa over the Waikari River at Putorino is a key priority.

"Typically it takes about 2 months depending on the location, and complexity of the site. If things go well, we hope to do it quicker, obviously subject to weather, but we are committed to getting it restored."

Used during World War II, Bailey bridges can take around 44 tonne and will handle stock trucks.

Downer Construction supervior Mike Nesbitt said a small bridge can be built in a matter of hours, larger ones are more complex.

The Government says design work is underway for a 54m prefabricated bridge at Rissington, where Patoka and Rissington locals are still relying on an IRB to access their communities. 

A 3-span Bailey bridge on SH35 at

Hikuwai is also now in the design phase.

"Bailey bridges are only one of the tools we’re using to reconnect communities in the short term. Other options including diversions through private property, single lane access, and speed or weight restrictions are also being considered," said Transport Minister Michael Wood.

But for those in Tutira and Putorino where supplies can only be brought in by helicopter, the isolation is kicking in.

"To just be able to get out, some people are really struggling," Tutira resident Stephanie Taylor said.

"People are taking risks to try and use the roads, and it's not safe. We need safe access to get medications, farming supplies in," said Tutira School principal Lynne Horrobin.

It's an SOS from those for whom the main bridge leads to nowhere and the only road out, still resembles a goat track.