NZ Transport Agency contractors temporarily paused use of their earthmoving machinery yesterday south of Kaikoura while a large boulder was blasted out of the way.
About half the 25 major slips which came down on the road during the November 14 earthquake are now cleared or partially cleared. (See map of slips progress from earlier this week, below).
“A large, 50 tonne plus, rock protrusion hanging over one of the larger slips needed to be blasted out of the way, as contractors were unable to dislodge it using other methods,” says Pete Connors, Transport Agency Regional Performance Manager.
“The blasting work was carried out successfully on Wednesday, and earthmoving equipment cannot be active underneath while blasting work is happening above, for the safety of operators. Slip removal is continuing today, aiming for a mid December target to get the highway open to one lane, subject to weather and further aftershocks.
“We understand how vital it is to get this highway open. Crews are working hard to remove the slip material as quickly as they can to restore access to Kaikoura from State Highway 1, but we also need to ensure the safety of workers on the ground and the hazardous nature of blasting work means that it must be undertaken with care.”
Mr Connors says getting a second lane open to the south side of Kaikoura could be some time away – potentially well into the New Year – as parts of the highway have collapsed on the sea side and will need to be rebuilt. Meanwhile the inside lanes needed to be protected with bunds and protective barriers like containers, taking up valuable road space.