New video footage released today highlights the challenges the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) crews working at Ohau Point, north of Kaikōura, are facing daily as they construct a new highway around the base of the major landslide.
Ohau is one of the largest and most challenging landslides still to be cleared, stretching 630 metres around New Zealand’s famous Fur Seal Sanctuary. More than 100,000 cubic metres of material fell down during last November’s earthquake and a clearance and rebuild operation has been underway for most of this year to reconnect communities.
“While abseilers are still working to make safe the northern face of the slip, teams have spent the winter months constructing the foundations for a new seawall where a road and shared path will eventually sit,” says NZ Transport Agency Earthquake Recovery Manager Steve Mutton.
“Despite freezing cold conditions and sudden tidal changes, the crews have made great progress,” he says.
The new footage also shows for the first time, the teams working to keep the seal colony safe by carefully moving pups and adult seals out of the construction site. Permits granted under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 mean NCTIR team members can physically move the seals. Using helicopters and specially trained seal handlers, the seals are shifted out of harm’s way so machinery can continue making progress.
“Kaikōura’s natural environment is beautiful and special and we want to look after it. Every morning our crews move the seals to safety before the rest of our team starts work.”
Meanwhile, a major operation to install 6000 square metres of steel mesh is well underway on top of Ohau’s fragile northern face. Due for completion in September, the mesh will allow crews to safely clear the small mountain of material still waiting to be shifted underneath. It will also signal the start of construction of a new seawall and road on the northern side of the slip.
Seawall teams are currently working at Irongate, closer to Kaikōura, and Ohau to build 2.5 kilometres of seawalls. Each block weighs 5 tonnes and more than 7000 of them are needed.
“At Ohau, the old road will be used as a catch bench in case any rocks fall in the future. This means contractors will be able to clear the material without causing disruption to the road network.”
Situated in the middle of the northern coastal corridor, Ohau wasn’t easy to reach. Crews had to build access tracks around the other nine landslides from the northern and southern ends in order to reach Ohau in the middle.
Following a successful helicopter sluicing operation at Ohau Point, earthworks teams spent two months benching the landslide to make it safe enough for machinery to cart more than 8000 truck and trailer loads off the southern side of the point during a two month 24/7 operation.
“We are really proud of the work these crews are doing and the way people are working together to reconnect communities along the Kaikōura coast and ensure our wildlife are safe,” says Mr Mutton. “It is a unique environmental and construction challenge but we are now starting to see visible progress after months of preparation.”