We were lucky that our Lodge and Tree House structures came through the huge “Kaikoura Earthquake” of November 14, 2016, relatively unscathed – plaster cracks, broken bottles, and the loss of a lot of sleep. With respect to other aspects of our environment we were not as lucky and for the balance of our summer season, which in our southern hemisphere runs from September through March, we were challenged by the significant damage all along the coast. The worst issue from our point of view was the massive landslides along Highway One that smothered the road in hundreds of tons of boulders, trees and dirt.
Highway One runs from Picton (the receiving port for the Wellington ferry) and Blenheim (the nearest airport of size) in the north through Kaikoura to Christchurch in the south. The Highway is the Lodge’s primary artery for supplies and guest arrivals. It is essentially the only way into and out of Kaikoura. There is an alternative, longer route from Christchurch to Kaikoura, the Inland Road, that was less damaged by the quake than Highway One, and which was restored relatively quickly. From mid-January Highway One to the south, from Kaikoura to Christchurch, has been open on a restricted basis - but the route to the north is still closed.
The restoration of the Highway is requiring a huge and expensive outlay of money and effort, involving hundreds of workers and innumerable pieces of heavy equipment (even helicopters and ships) working 10 hous a day, 7 days a week. This is particularly true for the northern route. There the landslides and rebuilding of the road are being attacked from both the north and the south simultaneously. The NZ government has announced that “ no matter what” the road will be fully open by December 2017, an announcement that we take to be a promise.
The staging area for the northern restoration effort is being carried on right around the corner from the Lodge, so we are able to monitor daily the progress being made by the hundreds of men & women from the recovery crews. Considering the scale of the job the progress is quite remarkable. Over half a million cubic tons of debris has to be removed from the roadway and disposed of in an environmentally safe way. The largest load a dump or tip truck can only carry is 3 cubic tons, so we can only imagine the number of trips involved - at times it seems to us to be a Sisyphean effort - but we are confident that the workers will prevail. We watch in amazement.
The larger Kaikoura environs were also affected in significant ways by the quake: major uplifting and subsidence of land, the ocean floor, including that of the local harbour, altered in significant and not yet fully understood ways, and the disruption of a large number of bird and ocean colonies. Repair of Kaikoura harbour’s infrastructure is well under way, allowing the local oceanic tours, Whale Watch, Dolphin Encounter and Kaikoura Kayaks, to regroup and get back to business.
Full operation of the harbour is expected well before the opening of the 2017-18 summer season.
We are also getting good news about the recovery and regrouping of the local seal colonies. The Ohau seal colony to the north of Hapuku is adjusting extremely well, with a number of new seal pup nursery pools evident only a few miles north of their previous long term nurseries. This good news coupled with the recent multiple sightings of Orca, Humpback, and Sperm whales and the daily sighting of hundreds of Dolphins leads us to believe that Kaikoura is on the road to a full recovery.
If you are thinking about coming to Kaikoura this next summer, please rest assured that the town will be ready to welcome you with open arms, as will we.
We want to give a special shout out and thank you to all those guests that joined us this past summer in spite of all the obstacles, and we hope that they found the shifting landscape and the earthworks as interesting as we do.