The proposed closure of State Highway 1 for two months at the Brynderwyn Hills would be a devastating blow for transport operators and all of Northland, according to truckers’ group the National Road Carriers Association.
Chief executive Justin Tighe-Umbers said the 58 days the hills were closed after Cyclone Gabrielle had already cost an extra $62 million in transport costs, and a further shutdown could force some people out of business.
“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,” Tighe-Umbers said.
“If it goes ahead, it would be yet another serious hit after a triple whammy of pandemic, cyclone and economic slowdown.”
He said there was enormous frustration among transport operators, who had been calling for a Brynderwyn bypass for decades to no avail, and the organisation’s phones had been running red hot with calls from concerned members.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
He added that one of the proposed detours, via Dargaville, would add 140 kilometres to the return journey between Auckland and Whangarei, driving up the cost to transport goods between Auckland and Whangarei by around 30 per cent.
“Many customers simply cannot afford to pay that much extra,” he said.
Tighe-Umbers added that the association would be calling for the re-establishment of a resilience relief fund to enable 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,” he said. “Real people end up paying the price in jobs, livelihoods and mental health.”