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Marlborough Sounds recovery from floods may take months

Authorities say it will take months for the Marlborough Sounds to recover from the recent flooding, with some communities still cut off and the roading network in ruins.

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It’s been three weeks since the region was drenched. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 100 slips came down in last month's floods, 20 of them significant and many still not repaired.

Marlborough roads manager Steve Murrin says the damage was worse than he expected.

“I've been involved in this network for 30-odd years and it's probably some of the worst damage I've ever seen on it”.

As many as 125 contractors have been working on the roads and so far have moved over 20,000 cubic tones of dirt. Murrin says there are 10 or 20 times that amount which still needs to be removed.

Road closures

Queen Charlotte Drive which usually connects Picton to Havelock is impassable in places due to slips and washouts. Some areas are open to residents at certain times of the day, while others have to leave a car on the Havelock side of the slips and walk through each day to get to work.

Authorities hope to open Picton to Linkwater this weekend, but it’s unlikely the worst-damaged part of the road from Linkwater through to Havelock will be open for some weeks.

It’s unclear exactly how much repairs will cost but it’s likely to be many millions of dollars. The damage from the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016 cost $6 million to repair, though authorities expect this to be significantly more.

Local businesses like the Queen Charlotte Tavern are struggling with the road closures with co-owner Mary-Ann Surridge describing business as dead. “I mean the roads are closed on their side of me. This part of the road is closed as well. So there's pretty much been nobody here.”

Surridge says getting the roads open again soon is a matter of survival.

Communities isolated

The Keneperu community remains cut off with contractors still unable to access some of the road due to slips and roading instability. The biggest issue is a large boulder in the middle of the road which is about the size of a car, with houses just below it.

Authorities don’t yet know how they’re going to remove it. Murrin says “the road either side at the moment is damaged and we just can't get a big machine there to deal with it”.

Relief for these communities may be some time off. Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says they’re working as quickly as possible.

“Look I suspect it will be weeks before I get a really good connection, particularly for residents and emergency supplies and the like and it will be a lot longer than that for the general public.”

Queen Charlotte track

The 71km Queen Charlotte track has been closed by the Department of Conservation with a significant amount of work required to get it reopened again.

DOC senior ranger Margot Ferrier says they’re still assessing the damage and won’t know the extent of it until diggers and engineers are bought in. “There're lots and lots of slips, drop outs, washouts, we've lost a bridge. We've got a toilet that we're going to have to move because it's on a slump and yeah, lots of windfalls for us to clear.”

The plan is to open parts of the track at a time, meaning people can still enjoy it even if other parts still need to be repaired. That’s still some months away though with DOC planning to get as much as possible open by October ahead of the busy summer season.