By Jonathan Bhana-Thomson, chief executive, Heavy Haulage Association.
It has been devastating to see the destruction to roads, property, but most significantly to peoples’ lives with the major weather issues that have confronted the top half of the North Island in the first few weeks of 2023.
In all this, it has heartening to see, of course, the various sectors of the Heavy Haulage Association playing their part and just getting on with helping. Our industry includes operators in the heavy haulage, building relocation, load pilot, and heavy recovery sectors, and each of these has been providing assistance where required in the immediate and initial recovery of the cyclone destruction.
Members of the association have been busy transporting earthmoving equipment and other machinery to remove the debris from key roading networks to enable emergency services to access areas where roads and bridges have been damaged or destroyed. This included SH2 where the Napier Expressway was closed for a number of days after flood debris blocked the highway.
On SH5 between Napier and Taupo, there were more than 30 slips or washouts on this section of road, and diggers and excavators have been transported in to enable crews to work from both ends to start repairs. It has been the same with the Brynderwyns on the SH1 connection with Northland where machinery was quickly transported to the area.
The huge washout on SH25A in the Coromandel has required drilling equipment and other machinery to be transported in to assess the options for re-establishing the road.
On-going there are many of our association operators that are moving essential earthmoving equipment from other locations around the North Island as the massive silt removal and reconstruction of roadways and other works begin. These include the transportation of prefabricated construction items.
Members of our house-moving sector have also been undertaking initial recovery work, with lifting damaged infrastructure and transporting emergency housing for the many who are unable to return to their homes. Many schools have been affected, and our members have been transporting relocatable classrooms to these sites so that schooling can carry on.
It has been an impressive collaborative effort by our members and other industry support services to ensure that oversize loads can be moved and vehicles recovered by salvage operators to enable roads to be reopened and key infrastructure services to be back up and running.
It is expected that the recovery from the impact of Gabrielle will be a long one and require lots of resources, and the heavy haulage sector will play a key role in this, including the delivery of prefabricated items such as bridge beams and the repiling of buildings and houses.
Over the past few years we adapted to disruptions due to the pandemic, and now weather damage disruption resulting in more challenges and delay for clients and customers in the upper north. We ask the general civil contracting industry for patience and understanding as these new issues slowly get resolved.
Within the areas directly affected by damage there will be increased numbers of oversize loads being moved over coming weeks and months, and we ask that other contractor road users be aware of the these loads, and heed any messages being given by load pilots that are travelling with these loads.
The association has been providing feedback to the roading authorities about our oversize load requirement, and communicating their Responses directly to members so that they are up to date with the latest information.
We have also been able to liaise with the authorities on behalf of individual members, and encourage all members to seek the association support when required.