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Truck convoy makes historic trip from Taupō to Napier

Trucks line up on the Rangitaiki Plains to be the first to travel State Highway 5 from Taupō to Napier since Cyclone Gabrielle shut the road on February 14. Photo / NZTA

About 30 trucks and trailers have been the first to travel State Highway 5 between Taupō and Napier in the month since much of the eastern end of the critical northern access in and out of Hawke’s Bay was trashed in Cyclone Gabrielle.

The trucks assembled near Matea Rd on the Rangitāiki Plains in time for a convoy which left for Napier at 7am, taking about three hours.

Following an inspection of the highway a westbound convoy, from Napier to Taupō, was scheduled to leave at 4pm, another at 7am on Wednesday, and another leaving the Taupō end at 4pm, with a similar alternating of the cycle over Thursday and Friday.

The convoys, with lead and rear pilots, are for critical needs only and by early afternoon Tuesday, no further announcements had been made over the use of the road next week, although national highways management agency Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has said it hopes to have the road open for some degree of public use by the end of the month.


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Regional manager maintenance and operations Jaclyn Hankin said the damage to State Highway 5 from Cyclone Gabrielle was significant and Waka Kotahi and its contractors have worked incredibly hard to get the road to a state where opening up for freight convoys was a possibility.

“There are 32 damaged sites the convoys have to travel through or past, ranging from minor dropouts to significant underslips and washouts,” Hankin said.

“Restoring connections like SH5 is critical to support the country’s economic and social growth and to provide resilient and safe access for our farming, horticulture and tourism sectors to connect with local and export markets.”

With Hawke’s Bay cut off by the SH5 closure to the west and the SH2 closure to the north, heavy vehicles had for the last four weeks needed to travel as far south as Palmerston North, doubling the time for the journey from Napier to Hamilton or Auckland.


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The convoy included heavy vehicles transporting essential supplies, such as food, as well as livestock and building supplies.

Waka Kotahi recognised the number of heavy vehicles travelling as part of the convoy would have an impact on both the communities along SH5, and those at either end.

People were being asked to avoid travel in the relevant areas at the times the convoys were expected to pass through, where possible, or to expect delays and be patient.

Hankin said assessments after each convoy could lead to cancellations at short notice due to any vulnerability in the road.

“Our next step is to open access to the general public, which we’re expecting to do by the end of the month,” she said.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the patience and resilience of the communities that live alongside SH5, and we’re looking forward to reopening this important connection to essential services and supplies, schools, work and friends and whānau for them as soon as we’re able to do so safely.”

Read More:Truck convoy makes historic trip from Taupō to Napier