PM John Key: 'Too soon to know if SH1 can be repaired'
Prime Minister John Key has cast some doubt on whether State Highway 1 will be repaired, saying it is too soon to know the scale of damage and extent of necessary repairs.
The condition of State Highway 1 either side of the cut-off Kaikoura township remains a major concern for officials, with sizeable slips blocking some parts of the road and ruptures in others.
Key, who made a second helicopter flight over Kaikoura on Wednesday morning, said he "simply [didn't] know" whether the road could be repaired.
"We didn't get a chance to really look south, but again, looking north, what you can see is the tremendous amount of rubble that we observed on Monday.
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"The mountain has moved over the road, now the engineers will have to work out how they eventually resolve that issue, but you can be sure that north of Kaikoura is going to be out of action for a long period of time."
Asked whether how he felt about the chances of fixing the road, Key replied: "I just don't think you'd be confident enough to say straight away.
"I mean, in the end it may be the only option, they may have to fix it, but they'll have to figure out how and where they're going to move such a huge amount of debris, how they're going to stabilise the mountains and hills that are behind that – there are just a lot of individual slips along the way of varying degrees of magnitude."
Officials were using a number of different techniques to map the scale of damage, including imagery from a P3 Orion RNZAF plane, but it was "no quick fix".
"If you just take a look at the size of the slips that have taken place, the mountain's literally moved forward and you can't see the road, so that just tells you there's thousands of tonnes of debris. Now, what you do with it and where you go, that's for the technical engineers to decide."
Transport Minister Simon Bridges, who also viewed the damage from the air, said it was "very sobering".
"It also just reinforces to me that it won't just be what we can see, which is obviously bad enough, it will be all the things we can't see."