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Sealed and unsealed roads

Our contractors, about potholes, grading and maintenance

Gisborne District Council has 4 roading contractors that maintain 887 roads in the district, 879km sealed and 1,020km of unsealed. Waka Kotahi are responsible for the state highways in our district.

To report any issues on local roads, contact our customer service team on 0800 653 800 or fill in the eFix request form

On this page

Network contractors

Roading contracts
  • Hikurangi - Blackbee Contractors Ltd
  • Uawa - Downer NZ
  • Waipaoa - Fulton Hogan Ltd
  • Turanga - city area - Fulton Hogan Ltd
  • Vegetation control for the entire network - Inline Group
  • Annual reseals and maintenance for the entire network - Fulton Hogan Ltd
  • Streetlights – ElectriNET
Our network consists of:
  • 1899km of roads - 879km sealed and 1,020km unsealed.  Total of 887 roads
  • 263km of footpaths, 10.9km of shared paths
  • 413 bridges and large culverts
  • 3,703 streetlights


Summer is the best time to fix potholes

The best time of year to permanently fix a pothole is generally October to March, if it's dry.

Winter, cooler or wet months are not the best time

Potholes cannot be repaired permanently when it's wet or too cold. We can only do a temporary repair using DGM or mix material. Depending on the size of the pothole and traffic numbers, this fix won't last and will keep failing until the permanent repair.

DGM is a bit like concrete - it needs time to set hard before you can drive on it. As we can’t close roads for long periods, as soon as the pothole's filled and traffic starts driving on it before it's had time to set, it sometimes fails. 
Yes we do go back and continually refill the same potholes. This is frustrating but that's all we can do until the permanent fix.

To keep our roads safe if potholes are dangerous, we have to do a temporary fix to fill a pothole.

Fixing potholes

The permanent and best repair is 'mill and fill' done in summer. The pothole area is dug out up to 300mm deep and filled with new gravel, then patch sealed.

DGM is the material that potholes are filled with for a temporary fix. It sometimes won't last and may keep failing until a permanent repair.

We also waterproof the road to stop water getting under the surface in the first place. This is called crack sealing - it's those black lines on a sealed road.

How we prioritise potholes

Roads with more traffic generally take priority over very low volume roads.

Reporting potholes or other defects in the road

Report any issues with local roads to us.

For any issues on state highways contact Waka Kotahi NZTA

What's with all the potholes?

The how, why and when they're best fixed

Sealed roads

We have 879km of sealed roads in our district.

Each year we spend $13m on maintenance such as potholes and major surface fixes like chip seal and asphalt replacement.

Chip seal or asphalt road surface

To keep our roads safe and maintained, we sometimes need to rebuild support layers (pavement) and the surface (chip seal or asphalt).

New seals

Resurfacing involves spreading stone chip over a layer of hot sprayed bitumen. The new seal can take some time to settle down and extra care is required due to loose chip and sticky bitumen.

Our contractors take every precaution to avoid splashing bitumen, but if you get any small spots on your vehicle, it can be removed with kerosene or baby oil.  If your vehicle gets splashed with cement, please wash it off as soon as possible.

Unsealed roads

We have 1,020km of unsealed rural roads in our district. About 150km of these carry heavy logging and stock vehicles.

Maintenance includes grading and gravel when needed.

Each year we spend about $8m on maintenance. This includes grading, new metal, maintaining drains and controlling vegetation, mowing and weed spraying.

Grading and gravel roads

When's the best time to grade a road?

Spring and autumn are the best times of year to grade roads for maximum benefit. Especially when the road is damp heavy maintenance grading will help restore the shape of the road and compact it to a dense surface.

Grading in winter is avoided where possible. This can make slushy conditions that take a long time to dry out making it unsafe for motorists.

Grading in mid-summer is also avoided. Cutting into a dry hard surface will leave a layer of loose material that reduces to dust. Then dust becomes an issue for traffic and nearby residents.
Corrugations will also reappear more easily on dry, loose surfaces which is why we avoid it, as it just makes more work.

How often are gravel roads inspected?

Our 4 maintenance contractors together with staff review the network every month. This frequency can change if we're impacted by a severe weather event.

We add about 25,000 cubic metres of new gravel to unsealed roads each year.

Roads with higher volumes of heavy traffic, such as logging and stock trucks increase the wear and tear of a road. High volume roads are re-graveled and graded more regularly.

The road surface should remain in good condition after grading, depending on the weather, geology, traffic volumes and driver behaviour.

Potholes on unsealed roads

Potholes are more common in wet weather - where the road is flat or there’s a hollow or corrugation. To reduce the number of potholes, roads are graded so the water flows to the side of the road.

Seasonal construction work

Work is scheduled at these times of year with flexibility to adjust to seasonal changes such as flooding and droughts.

January - MarchCompletion of pre-reseals, reseals, pre-winter shutdown on construction
April - JuneHeavy metaling until it's too wet, drainage, unsealed road grading as weather permits
July - SeptemberCulverts, water tabling, minimal grading and aggregate
October - DecemberPre-reseal repairs, heavy metaling, increased grading, reseals if possible

Maintenance work schedule

Our maintenance work programme which includes grading, road sweeping, chip reseals.

You will be able to see when maintenance is due. Heavy metaling and vegetation control will follow soon.


We maintain 3,703 streetlights in our region.

Eastland Network is the electricity lines company for Gisborne and the East Coast. They own the poles, wires and underground cabling used by electricity retailers to supply customers with electricity. Up to 30% of our streetlights are attached to an Eastland Network asset.

For health and safety reasons, Eastland Network only allow ElectriNET to work on their assets.

Report any streetlight issues on local roads.

Flood-damaged roads

Why are the roads so bad?

Our district’s roading network goes over unstable and highly erodible land that's prone to slips and drop outs.

Other ongoing issues include climate impact, more frequent flooding and increased heavy traffic volumes.

The cause of erosion in our district is a combination of soft rock geology, and in rural areas - historic vegetation clearance or deforestation.

Over the last 12 years there’s been about a tenfold increase in freight to the port, which is an increase in heavy traffic volumes using the roads.

Why is maintenance not being done?

We continue to do maintenance but since November 2021 our district’s been hammered by 4 major storm events causing $28m of damage to the road network.

Following these events our focus was to reopen roads to residents who were cut-off and get access for heavy freight to support our rural communities. Priority is given to:

  1. School bus routes
  2. Safe access to connect communities
  3. Forestry and farm access routes for animal welfare

We’re asking residents in rural areas waiting for road repairs to be patient as work will be carried out in summer when the ground dries out.

What's the delay in fixing some roads?

We have 40 roads that require major engineering repairs for dropouts and retaining walls. It's a long process to get engineering designs, resource consent and tendering contracts before any construction work can start. Then there could be supply delays for construction material.

Winter is also not the ideal time for construction work as the ground is too saturated.

Some roads impacted by the March 2022 rain event have traffic cones and barriers, as no construction work can take place until a decision on our emergency works funding application to Waka Kotahi NZTA is known in October.

Why is it taking so long?

Our staff and contractors are working flat out reopening roads where they can.

With new contractors in place since 1 July, they're working through the backlog of maintenance due to the flood events.

Flood damage work needs to wait for funding from Waka Kotahi. We also need to work within budget

Priority fixes for flood-damaged sites

We have fast tracked $3.1m of priority fixes on the following roads across the district. Work is underway to fix the slumps, drop outs and culverts

The priority roads list on our road info webpage

SiteAreaStatusIssueFixEst. CostStatus
Wheeler StUawaUnsafe accessAggregate lossHeavy metaling$50,000Done
Wheeler StUawaUnsafe accessDrainageStormwater channel$25,000Done
Kopuaroa RdUawaUnsafe accessEarth movementStormwater channel$100,000Done
Waipiro RdUawaUnsafe accessEarth movementStormwater channel$100,000 
Whareponga RdUawaUnsafe accessCulvert washoutCulvert replacement$300,000 
Whareponga RdUawaUnsafe accessAggregate lossHeavy metalling$150,000Done
Anaura RdUawaUnsafe in wet conditionsAggregate lossHeavy metalling$150,000On hold due to landslide
Wharekiri RdUawaUnsafe in wet conditionsAggregate lossHeavy metalling$200,000Done
Mangatu RdWaipaoaClosed to HT over 44TDropoutsNeeds geotech design$500,000 
Paparatu RdWaipaoa4x4 onlyDropouts, unsafe potholesNeeds geotech design, stormwater channel and metaling$320,000 
Tiniroto Rd @ BluffsWaipaoaUnsafe in wet conditionsEarth movementNew culvert, AC overlay$80,000Part done
Tiniroto RdWaipaoaUnsafe in wet conditionsUnsafe potholesAC potholes$90,000Ongoing
Waimata RdWaipaoaUnsafe in wet conditionsUnsafe potholesAC Potholes$40,000Done
Waingake RdWaipaoaUnsafe in wet conditionsUnsafe potholesAC Potholes$80,000Done
Wairere RdWaipaoaClosedDropoutsRetreats x 3$120,000Done
Waiomatatini RdHikurangiOpenDropoutReplace culverts, backfill dropout$14,128Done
Waiomatatini RdHikurangiOpenSlip $5,346Done

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