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Home Forums Riding Where to ride The Forgotten World Highway – SH43 Reply To: The Forgotten World Highway – SH43


  • Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
  • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
  • Rank: 1200cc Rider

The gravel section of SH43 The Forgotten Highway is apparently in the worst condition it’s been for years, this doesn’t mean it’s difficult in an adventure riding sense but there’s a lot of local pushing to get it sealed.

I think it would be a shame if it got sealed as it’s part of the character of the road, but it could be the beginning of the end if residents have their way.

Home-made “closed” signs appeared at both ends of a pot-hole riddled gorge over Labour Weekend, with residents worried it was too dangerous to drive through.

The road through the remote Tangarakau Gorge in Eastern Taranaki is the only unsealed section of the Forgotten World Highway – State Highway 43 – and in the last few months has developed large potholes.

The condition of the highway, which is used by an average of 130 vehicles each day, prompted the erection of the signs at both ends of the gorge, warning drivers the road was closed because of the potholes.
The road through the Tangarakau gorge is said to be in the worst condition it has ever been in.
David Burroughs/FAIRFAX NZ

The road through the Tangarakau gorge is said to be in the worst condition it has ever been in.

On Wednesday the signs had been removed and Downers, who hold the contract to maintain the road, were spreading new gravel over the road.

However due to the rain and the traffic going over it, even the new gravel had begun to develop holes by Wednesday afternoon.

“It makes the road unique having it unsealed but it just needs to be maintained,” Whangamomona Hotel manager Anika Williams said.

Whangamomona sits along the Forgotten World Highway about 101km away from New Plymouth.

Williams said they had already had three people stop at the hotel asking for help with flat tyres but since the closure of the town’s only garage due to the death of former mechanic and locally appointed “president” Murt Kennard, no one was able to help them.

The Whangamomona Hotel set up complaints box, which contains the highway hotline for the New Zealand Transport Agency.

She said she always avoided the route whenever she headed to Taumarunui, instead choosing to take the longer route over Mt Damper.

The hotel had also set up a “gorge complaints” box, which contained the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) complaints hotline number as the hotel staff had had enough of hearing from disgruntled tourists.

Residents raised the issue with Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger at a meeting in Whangamomona two weeks ago and Kuriger said she was now looking into it.
The potholes along the route have been getting worse over the last few months, residents said.
David Burroughs/FAIRFAX NZ

The potholes along the route have been getting worse over the last few months, residents said.

“I am currently working on understanding the scale and cost of the work that is required, by meeting with all those involved who have an associated interest in the project in order to have the correct information for what is required,” she said.

“Once this has occurred, we will be in a better position to advocate for the best possible result.”

Ohura resident Sally Peat, who had lived in the area for 36 years, said she was surprised and horrified at the state of the road when she drove through it last week.

She had expected the road to be well maintained in preparation for the two annual garden festivals in the region.

“It is the worst I have ever seen it and a disgrace to ignore road conditions for Taranaki tourists’ busiest weekends,” she said.

Rob and Annie Fletcher, who run Back Country Accommodation, said the condition of the road was the worst they had seen it in 11 years.

“It’s the worst it’s ever been because they’re not spending any money on it,” Rob said.

The couple likened driving along the road to being on an episode of the TV show Survivor, as they were never sure what they would come across or if they would be able to get home.

“We always take a small bag with us,” Annie said.

Taumarunui man Mike Cooney and his mate Ian Atkins, from Whangamata, drove through the gorge on trail bikes and said while it was a lot rougher than usual, it would be a shame if it was sealed.

“I think people are getting a bit too precious about it,” Cooney said.

“It’s part of the adventure. We’re losing a few of these out-of-the-way places because people are getting their cars dirty.”

NZ Transport Agency highway manager Ross I’Anson said they were aware of the problems through the gorge.

“Our maintenance contractor has repaired the potholes and applied a running course over the road,” he said.

“This is a layer of road metal placed on the road and then rolled to provide a good running surface.”

I’Anson said the road had deteriorated quicker than they expected over the weekend and they had undertaken the repairs as soon as they were made aware of the problem.

Between $60,000 and $70,000 was spent on gorge section of road each year, he said.

While Downers had recently lost the maintenance contract for the Stratford District Council to Inframax, I’Anson said that didn’t affect the State Highway and Downers would continue to do the maintenance along the route.