Locals between Nelson and Blenheim furious about SH6 closure

Locals who live between Nelson and Blenheim are furious about an upcoming road closure that will turn their lives upside down.

State Highway 6 was significantly damaged during the August storm and will close soon for seven weeks to repair the road.

Jamie Knight owns The Millers Rest in Rai Valley and says he couldn't believe it when he heard the news.

"It's like a kick in the guts you know. It's been felt before the flooding, we didn't get the help we needed. And yet again here we are, same problem," Knight said.

He says the community should have been consulted before it was announced.

"We've all kind of been dumped into it and had no formal warning. We found out when everyone else found out," Knight said.

Many business owners are concerned how they'll make ends meet without motorists travelling past.

Place like the The Brick Oven Cafe in Rai Valley found it tough when the road was closed for two weeks during the August storm.

Owner Michelle Turner is frustrated. "We're screwed .... it's just after Covid and more flooding and road closures, it's like how much more can we take?"

Waka Kotahi's Andrew James says he sympathies with residents and businesses but repairs can't wait.

"We've got a real risk of losing the whole road. And that's our concern. We don't want to be taking our time over this project."

James says there wasn't enough time to consult everyone before the announcement was made.

He says options like single lane and night openings aren't feasible.

"There are big holes, these are five or six meters deep, twenty metres wide, four sites," James said.

"We've got to be down in that working environment and it's very, very narrow."

It usually takes about 1 hour, 50 minutes to travel between Nelson and Blenheim. With the detour, through State Highway 63, it will take around 2 hours, 45 minutes.

But for those in place like Rai Valley, Havelock and Okiwi Bay it will take even longer.

Ian Montgomery owns Okiwi Bay Holiday Park and says it's going to have a huge impact.

"Well it says three and a half hours on Google Maps but it's more like four hours to get to Nelson. And that's where our doctors are, that's where our suppliers are."

Chris Lorndon commutes from Rai Valley to Nelson daily for work, though won't be able to while the road is closed.

"Because I'm the owner of an electric vehicle with a limited range I can't do the alternative route," Lorndon said.

"So I'll need to find alternative accommodation in Nelson for the time of the closure and perhaps commute home on the weekends."

For around 20 properties it's possible they won't have any access at all, as there's repairs happening on either side of them.

Kokorua Valley resident Nigel Patterson says the impact will be huge.

"You've got 11 children who won't be able to get out to school. I think half the valley work in Nelson."

Patterson says it feels like one thing after the other at the moment.

"On top of everything that's already happened with the flooding it's just another hit to the valley."

Waka Kotahi hopes to open up a forestry road which would connect some isolated residents to Nelson, with details available later on this week.

State Highway 6 between Hira and Ronga Road will close on November 1 and be reopened by December 18.