Proposed Brynderwyn closure ‘devastating blow’ for transport

In News5 MinutesBy GeorgiNovember 17, 2023

Closing the Brynderwyns would be a devastating blow for transport operators and the Northland community, says National Road Carriers.

Waka Kotahi announced this week it was considering a complete closure of SH1 through the Brynderwyn Hills for road repairs early next year.

The vital transport link has been hammered by slips and flooding, causing numerous closures already this year, due to several severe weather events, including Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Brynderwyns were fully closed or down to one lane as work was carried out to fix several slips caused by Cyclone Gabrielle from February, along with an earlier closure because of storm damage. It was fully opened on April 17.

Waka Kotahi said the board was considering a recommendation for further recovery and rebuild work in the Brynderwyns. The proposed full closure, if approved by Waka Kotahi’s board, is likely to be from Waitangi Day to Easter 2024.

National Road Carriers Association CEO Justin Tighe-Umbers said a closure could push some transport operators and businesses to collapse unless they receive Government support.

“Many transport operators and businesses are hanging by a thread and a two-month closure of the main arterial at the second busiest time of year would push some to collapse unless they receive Government support,” he said.

“If it goes ahead it would be yet another serious hit after a triple whammy of pandemic, cyclone and economic slowdown.

“We understand this work must be done as quickly as possible before the wet season and we want the resilience works to be done once and done right, so the existing road stays open until the new bypass is built. But trucking operators are asking Waka Kotahi to find a better way to get it done without shutting State Highway 1 for another two months.”

Tighe-Umbers said there is enormous frustration amongst transport operators who have been calling for a bypass for decades now, but the calls have fallen on deaf ears and now they are forced to pay the price.

He said NRC’s phones have been running red hot with calls from its road transport operator members who are hugely concerned about the closure.

“They are worried about the safety of detour routes, many of which are potholed and not designed for heavy haulage trucks, and they are worried for their livelihoods.”

One of the proposed detours through Dargaville would add 140km to the return journey between Auckland and Whangarei and drive up the cost to transport goods between Auckland and Whangarei by around 30%. “A truck running from Takanini to Whangarei wouldn’t be able to make it back in a single day, as drivers run out of hours and must have a ten-hour break. That means another truck would have to be put on, which isn’t always possible, and leads to yet more cost.”

A report commissioned by Northland Inc calculated that the 58 days of closure earlier this year cost $62 million in additional transport costs.

Tighe-Umbers said in the event of a closure NRC will work closely with Waka Kotahi on developing safe and as efficient as possible detour routes for heavy freight vehicles.

He said NRC would call for the re-establishment of a resilience relief fund to enable vulnerable Northland businesses to claim support for transport and other cost increases.

“We are now seeing a real-world example of the pain and harm caused by under investing in our infrastructure – real people end up paying the price in jobs, livelihoods and mental health.”

“This recommendation seeks funding to ensure this vital connection for Te Tai Tokerau is maintained for the short to medium term.

“This recommendation would result in a full closure of SH1 Brynderwyn Hills in order to complete this work as safely and as efficiently as possible.”

The spokeswoman said work was being done to prepare for the closure “to ensure alternative routes will be fit for purpose.”

“Confirmed detour routes and closure dates will be advised next month following our usual internal processes and approvals.