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Thames-Coromandel declares 'pre-emptive' state of emergency

The massive landslide that sliced through State Highway 25A, sweeping away part of the route from Kopu to Hikuai.
The massive landslide that sliced through State Highway 25A, pictured on 2 February. Photo: RNZ / Libby Kirkby-McLeod

Thames-Coromandel mayor Len Salt says his decision to call a pre-emptive declaration of emergency was on based on concern for vulnerable communities.

The state of emergency was declared at 1.35pm on Friday.

"The reason I have done this is because we have an unfolding situation with vulnerable communities, vulnerable people and an emerging situation where we have the potential for land slips and further erosion that we need to manage," he said.

He said the main area affected was the west coast, the Thames Coast, from Ruamahunga northward.

"By declaring a state of emergency we are empowering our agencies and our emergency support services and our staff to be able to manage this situation in a way that protects property and keeps people safe and out of harm's way."

Salt said the situation was weather dependent and would depend to some degree on the extent to which the damage that had already been done by water and rainfall continued to make the hills and catchment areas vulnerable to further slips.

"There is some rain expected over the weekend, but we're hoping for some fine weather to settle the situation down to some degree," he said.

The east coast is less affected and can be accessed from the south, but the situation can change at short notice.

Coromandel MP, National's Scott Simpson, spoke to Checkpoint on Friday about the state of the peninsula.

"It's been a very long week," Simpson said. "The community is coping as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

"We are not unused to heavy weather events here in the Coromandel but this one has been out of the bag and it's been really testing and stressful for a lot of people."

Simpson said the Coromandel would need a lot of support from the government, between the almost destroyed State Highway 25A and local businesses still coming out of Covid impacts.

"There will be some businesses that probably won't survive," he said.

The roads are in extremely precarious state.

"This weekend could be challenging," Simpson said.

There has been a debate about whether the floods and impacts of climate change means some communities may simply have to more or be abandoned.

"The Thames-Coromandel District Council has to their credit has for a number of years now been very cautious and careful about granting consent for coastal properties, and they've been doing that for a long time," Simpson said.

"But look, this is a wider conversation, not just for our region, but for the whole country."

The destruction of Highway 25A was a massive blow to the region and there was no clear idea yet how long it might take to repair, Simpson said.

"All I know is that when I was up there yesterday 70 metres of road had disappeared between the previous 24 hours.

"It was a moving feast, literally, the land is still moving, and until it actually settles down a bit I don't think even the expert engineers will be able to put any time on it."

Local residents are being advised to keep up-to-date with road conditions and take care while driving.

To find out which local roads and state highways are closed, visit the [ Thames Coromandel District Council website].