The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed that a further large slip has occurred on SH3 in the Manawatu Gorge at the same site which contractors have been working to clear for several weeks.
NZTA regional state highways manager David McGonigal says while the road had been cleared of all previous slip material by last Friday (14 October), torrential rainfall over the weekend further destabilised the site and approximately 20,000m3 of new material came down overnight on the evening of 17 October, increasing the height and width of the slip face.
Mr McGonigal said NZTA contractors would begin clearing the new debris as soon as it was safe to do so, and further material was expected to come down, particularly following rainfall. Until conditions were safe enough to allow for a detailed site inspection it was too early to say what impact the latest slip would have on the timeline for re-opening the road.
“We appreciate that people are frustrated about the length of this closure, and so are we. We know how important this road is for local communities and for the region’s economy, and we are working hard to get it re-opened as soon as possible. But before we can allow traffic to use this route we must ensure that the site is stable and the road is safe to travel. The scale of this latest slip shows that isn’t yet the case.
“This is one of the longest and most frustrating closures on record - we know how disruptive it has been for motorists and local communities, and we thank them again for their patience.”
The NZTA took over control of the Saddle Road and Pahiatua Track earlier this month after receiving geological assessments which indicated the closure was likely to continue for up to two months. NZTA road crews have assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the detour routes. Mr McGonigal says by temporarily taking over the alternative routes, the NZTA’s road crews would help to ensure the alternative routes remain safe and viable.
“Closures of this extent only happen around once in a decade, but when they do happen they cause real disruption. Our priority is twofold: getting the highway reopened as soon as it’s safe to do so, and keeping the alternative routes well maintained and safe in the meantime.”
The NZTA advises motorists that the detour routes take on average 15-20 minutes longer than SH3 through the gorge.