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SH1 closure, flooding force Northland locals to get creative – Stuff

While the indefinite closure of State Highway 1 at Mangamuka Gorge due to slips is “a nightmare” for Far North businesses, the heavy rain is forcing some Northlanders to get creative.
A privately owned Unimog – a truck with off-road capabilities – was used to transport a patient through floodwaters on Friday, while Kaitāia businesses are urging Air New Zealand to fly to the town.
One Kaitāia local has even started making custom T-shirts to immortalise the situation.
The Far North was saturated with more than 200mm of rain on Thursday and Friday, on top of one of its wettest ever Julys.
* Heavy rain in Northland closes SH1 south of Kaitāia indefinitely due to slips
* Northland town fears being cut off for a year again after heavy rain shuts SH1
* Far North downpour: Woman rescued from rising floodwaters, cars lost to floods

Kaitāia was cut off by flooding across both SH1 and SH10, and Mangamuka Gorge is now indefinitely closed.
Waka Kotahi contractors have now managed to cut a track through the largest slip, allowing access for construction vehicles, regional transport systems manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said.
However, the ground is still moving and since Monday another under-slip has opened up.
There are about 18 slips in total – three over-slips where material falls onto the road, and 15 under-slips, six of which are serious.
Crews are now working to prevent any further damage, including building bunds to direct rain away from the slips.
But the situation is “devastating news and a nightmare” for the top of the Far North, according to Andrea Panther from Kaitāia Business Association.
Mangamuka Gorge was closed by slips for a year after a storm in July 2020, and locals feared a repeat of the closure which cut the Mangamuka community in half and led to crashes on the alternate route.
The closure cost some businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, while a number also had more expensive freight due to the 30-minute detour, Panther said.
“We’re all cringing and getting ready for at least a year [closure] … It’s incredibly detrimental to our whole community.”
A long closure would cut into the town’s summer tourist season, Panther said.
To help offset the difficulty of getting to Kaitāia with SH1 closed, she was calling on Air New Zealand to help out by putting up flights from Hamilton or Wellington.
The regional carrier has stopped services to Kaitāia in 2014, and Barrier Air now offers flights from Auckland to Kaitāia.
Panther said while a new flood-prevention scheme by Northland Regional Council stopped Kaitāia town from flooding, farmers in outlying areas still have pools of water.
At the height of the flooding on Friday, Te Whatu Ora Te Tai Tokerau called on a privately owned Unimog to help transport a patient from Kaitāia Hospital, to Northland’s based hospital at Whangārei.
Kerikeri resident Mita Harris said the water was about 1.2m high when he drove through the floodwaters at Kāeo, where other cars had been swept away.
He and a group of like-minded people bought three Unimogs off the Defence Force in around 2016, to help when the Far North is flooded and they have been used for rescues several times, he said.
One Unimog has now been gifted to Ngāti Kuri, for rescues at the top of the country, while another is being leased to Ngāpuhi for kauri dieback work.
Harris, who is Biosecurity New Zealand’s Tiakina Kauri national manager operations, is grateful for his work for supporting his volunteer efforts.
The group hoped to find a benefactor who could help pay for running costs of the Unimog.
Meanwhile, a young Kaitāia entrepreneur has come up with a way to memorialise the closure of Mangamuka Gorge on a T-shirt.
Marley Maheno, who owns ACA Clothing, has designed a shirt posing the question "Is the gorge open?" emblazoned across the front.
Maheno said he designed the T-shirt about a month ago but promotion of the recent closure has seen a boost in sales for the niche manufacturer.
© 2022 Stuff Limited


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