First public vehicles drive into Kaikoura since earthquake, but convoy out cancelled
After a weather-delayed start, the first convoy of civilian vehicles has made it through the Inland Road to Kaikoura.
However, the afternoon convoy out of Kaikoura was cancelled due to poor weather.
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) regional performance manager Pete Connors said rain had "significantly increased the risk of rockfalls and landslides" on the route, making it unsafe for travel on Wednesday afternoon.
"The safety of people using the road and our contractors working on the road is paramount, and the risk of rockfalls and landslides was just too high to allow vehicles through."
* Scheduled access to the Inland Road to be provided, state of emergency continues
* Kaikoura's Inland Rd handed back to NZTA
* Kaikoura's emergency access route Inland Road remains closed to public
* Strict rules for first cars out of Kaikoura: No u-turns, no loo stops
Persistent drizzle meant the morning convoy was delayed by over an hour, leaving from the cordon near Mt Lyford about 9.25am.
About 43 vehicles made the trip, of the 63 who were registered to go. Vehicles began arriving in Kaikoura about 11.30am.
The convoy appeared to be a mixture of locals and people driving in for work, as well as a few trucks with supplies and a petrol tanker.
A southbound convoy was due to set off at 2pm, with over 50 vehicles registered to make the journey.
Those drivers will now have to wait until Friday to make the trip out of Kaikoura, and must re-register with NZTA.
The number of vehicles in a convoy is capped at 180 due to the logistics of getting them through within the allotted time, but as of Wednesday afternoon there were still plenty of spaces available for Friday's trip out.
Colin Martin and Kelsey Nolan were hours early to the cordon at the Kaikoura end of the road to make sure they would not miss the afternoon convoy.
The American couple were in New Zealand for at least a year on a working holiday visa, and recently bought a van to start travelling through the country.
Martin said while there was the option to evacuate on a ship or helicopter, they did not want to abandon their van and then deal with retrieving it later, so had waited for the road to open.
After the first few days of uncertainty, getting stuck in Kaikoura turned into a "nice, special experience" because of the generosity of the Snow family, who hosted them along with several other stranded tourists in campervans, Nolan said.
It was "kind of bittersweet" leaving at this point as they had settled into the community a bit, she said.
The couple had spent time volunteering while they were stuck in Kaikoura, and were impressed by how the locals were coping with the disaster.
Martin said they would be back as Kaikoura had earned a special spot in their hearts.