The NZ Transport Agency says it’s progressing towards reopening State Highway 11 between Paihia and Kawakawa before the end of April.
SH11 has been closed to all traffic since heavy rain from ex tropical Cyclone Fehi brought down a huge slip that’s hanging above the road on February 13.
“We should have reached a point in stabilising the hillside over the next couple of weeks where we can safely open the road to traffic in the morning and evening for a limited time under traffic control,” says the Transport Agency’s Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult.
“It will depend on the weather and continued monitoring of the slip and the risks it presents.”
“We will have to stop work while the road is open, but it will allow locals and tourists to get through and not have to drive the detour route which can add up to thirty minutes to their journey.”
“Favourable weather has helped our crews make good progress on the slip. They’ve been working from the top down on the hillside high above the road. After initially removing about 200 cubic metres of loose material a day, they are now taking out 800 – 1000 cubic metres a day.
We have reached the unstable material above the slip by cutting two 5 metre wide benches or steps in the hillside and have so far cleared about 12,000 loose cubic metres of earth and rock.”
“Safety is paramount. We can’t work on the hillside when it’s wet and we haven’t opened the road because of the risk of the unstable material falling on to the road.”
“There’s a layer of about 8,500 cubic metres of material sitting on top of other loose material, so it’s very unstable and the risk since February has been that it could move at any time,” says Ms Hori-Hoult.
“We had planned to use explosives to break up the layer, but we’ve worked our way down to a level where we can remove it now without blasting.”
The slip clearance is entering a new phase this week where instead of carting material off the top of the hillside, crews are pushing it down the slip face and will start removing it from the road.
“This is a great result, but the large amount of material being pushed on to the road is another reason why we can’t open the road any sooner,” says Ms Hori-Hoult.
“This work is more than ever reliant on good weather, so I have to stress that our end of April target is weather dependent. Our team reviews progress on a daily basis as the Transport Agency is very conscious of the importance of the SH11 route to the Bay of Islands for locals and tourists. We’re working to reopen the road and reconnect communities as soon as possible.”
The Transport Agency thanks local communities and visitors to the region for their patience and understanding while we work to restore the SH11 connection. We’re working as quickly as safely possible.
Locals can sign up at http://www.nzta.govt.nz/sh11-lemons-hill-slip(external link) to receive an email update on slip clearing progress and details of how and when the road will be reopened. Or go to http://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/sh11(external link)
The sign posted detour is via State Highways 1, 10 and 11. With increased traffic on the detour, drivers should allow up to 30 minutes extra for the journey between Kawakawa and Paihia. We ask motorists to drive with care and to the road conditions, and to allow enough time to get to their destination safely.