A major transport link on the East Coast has this morning reopened to passenger vehicles.
State Highway 5, which connects Napier and Taupō, had been closed to all vehicles until freight convoys began travelling through last week.
Queues were building from sunrise as Hawke’s Bay locals lined up, ready to escape.
Murray Huxtable was the first car to drive on the newly reopened highway.
“I’m heading back to Mount Maunganui. I've been down here two and a half weeks volunteering, driving machinery, trying to clean silt and help out where I can – they desperately need it down here. I’ll be back,” Huxtable said.
The critical link was out of action to passenger vehicles for five weeks after Cyclone Gabrielle.
The road reopened to freight vehicles last week, as trucks moved in convoys past dropouts and under slips.
SH5 is now open for 12 hours each day from 7am to 7pm.
Waka Kotahi will reassess the road every night for safety.
The transport agency's regional manager, Jaclyn Hankin, said it has been a huge task reopening SH5.
“A week after the cyclone we had a night of rain that left a 30-metre dropout which took out three lanes of the state highway, which then put us back a couple of weeks in our opening,” she said.
“It's still not perfect – problem areas are still being looked at, with multiple stop-go points in place.”
Traffic controller Monique Daley said traffic had been flowing well.
“It was pretty backed up this morning but traffic's flowing sweet now. It’s pretty cruisy, everyone's waving, happy smiles.”