Monsoon buckets have been used today to dislodge areas of rockface that appear to have been weakened by the large slip over the weekend at the Waioeka Gorge, says the NZTA.
Acting BOP state highways manager Andrew Scott says a helicopter carrying monsoon buckets has been dumping water from the nearby river onto rock face areas that geologists have identified as likely to cause further slip movement.
Mr Scott says before contractors can safely remove debris from the Waioeka Gorge the rockface areas need to be stabilised from any further slip events.
"There is still areas that our geologists are concern might come down, the monsoon buckets are being used to dislodge any loose material so that it can come down gradually before we can remove all the debris", says Mr Scott.
Mr Scott says crew worker safety is paramount at this stage, and work to remove debris will start as soon as the geological assessments confirm that the hillside is stable.
Mr Scott says the NZTA appreciated the closure will have ongoing disruption and additional costs to motorists with the alternative routes via SH35 around the East Cape and SH5 through Taupo adding extra travel time for drivers.
We share the frustrations of motorists, truckies and tourists but the safety of drivers comes first, so re-opening the road comes down to stabilising the slope, which is proving to be a challenge with the hillside still holding a lot of loose material.
Mr Scott says the NZTA is grateful to the contractors who had been working constantly onsite since the first slip occurred on Friday 2 March.
"Saturday's slip is the largest we have had in the Gorge in recent memory and the team from Opus and Downers have been working tirelessly in difficult conditions", he said.
Mr Scott also thanked motorists for their ongoing patience.
For up to date information on the Waioeka Gorge visit www.nzta.govt.nz(external link) or phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).