Highway changes: Alpine passes to close when it snows

Arthur's Pass can become heavily snowed in winter. Photo: NZTA
Arthur's Pass can become heavily snowed in winter. Photo: NZTA
The NZ Transport Agency is tightening up on letting motorists cross Porters and Arthur's Passes this winter.

Drivers had been allowed to use the main road between Christchurch and the West Coast when it snowed as long as they could fit chains, but that will be changing this winter.

The road this season would instead be closed while graders cleared the snow and laid down grit, and vehicles would only allowed back once it was safe, NZTA said.

The agency said this would prevent motorists getting stuck and their rescue causing further delays.

A spokesperson said people should still carry chains, and if the road remained closed for several hours road crews would use their discretion about who they let through.

“Waka Kotahi (NZTA) continuously reviews all its highway maintenance processes and this proposed change is no exception” he said.

“We are bringing these alpine passes into line with the open/closed management regime used on SH7 Lewis Pass and Rahu Saddle near Reefton.

“Given the success we have had managing the Lewis Pass using this approach, in place since 2017, we wanted to extend the same system to the Arthur’s and Porter’s Passes for everyone’s benefit.

“It is simpler and safer for both road crews and road users in terms of fewer delays and less diversions caused by drivers getting stuck in snow drifts or sliding on ice."

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