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Heavy congestion north of Wellington after slips, fallen trees close highways

Slips, fallen trees and poor weather have caused heavy congestion on several key roads north of the capital.

On Thursday afternoon Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said in a statement that the highway north of Pukerua Bay, State Highway 59 (formerly State Highway 1) was closed in both directions due to a slip.

The closure was likely to cause significant congestion as protesters from an anti-vaccine mandate march leave Wellington, and the alternative route, Paekākāriki Hill Rd, was also closed due to fallen trees.

“Congestion remains heavy and there is no detour available. Motorists are advised to avoid travelling in this area and delay their journey as contractors are still on-site cleaning the area and the roads are not expected to reopen anytime soon,” Waka Kotahi spokeswoman Jasmine Higginson said.

The slip is causing significant delays north of Wellington.

Benedict Knill/Supplied

The slip is causing significant delays north of Wellington.

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Police were alerted to the State Highway 59 slip just after 1.20pm on Thursday, a police spokesman confirmed.

Benedict Knill lives around the corner of the slip and walked down to see it on Thursday afternoon.

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“It’s two slips. They had just finished clearing the first one and the second, much larger one came down close by. The hill could be unstable and the guy in the truck reckoned it could take till midnight to clear it,” he said.

There were no reports of injuries due to the slip, but traffic was being turned around at the scene.

Higginson said heavy rain in recent days had made the hills along State Highway 59 unstable, with slips and debris falling onto the highway in multiple locations.

A slip has closed both lanes on the coastal highway north of Wellington.

Supplied

A slip has closed both lanes on the coastal highway north of Wellington.

It is not yet known how long either road was expected to remain closed, but it could be a number of hours before they are cleared and safe to open.

Contractors were on-site about 2.30pm Thursday clearing the area, but due to the instability of the surrounding environment and continued wet weather, there may be further incidents of slips, debris and fallen trees, Higginson said.

Waka Kotahi was monitoring the situation closely, and would open the roads when they were clear and safe for motorists.

Truck driver Shaun Kelly is stuck in the congestion and said on Thursday afternoon that it had been “standstill” for almost an hour at 3pm.

Contractors had cleared one lane, which allowed some traffic to get through, but then a second slip occurred and forced them to start all over again. “There’s still rocks falling.”

There were dozens of vehicles backed up behind Kelly, he said. “Luckily nobody got trapped,” he said.

SURFACE FLOODING IN LOWER HUTT

Meanwhile, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the Hutt City Council earlier responded to reports of surface flooding in Lower Hutt.

Fire central communications shift manager David Meikle said the service responded to several call-outs earlier on Thursday around the Melling area and in central Lower Hutt.

Photos and videos posted to social media showed many central streets flooded.

MetService forecast isolated showers for the Wellington region for Thursday afternoon, and on Friday morning more showers north of the city were also possible. Rain could become widespread on Friday evening across Wellington.



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