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Successful first blast of unstable rock above the Homer Tunnel

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The NZ Transport Agency is pleased with the first blast carried out today as part of a programme to remove a 2000 tonne section of unstable rock above the western entrance of the Homer Tunnel.

This blast is part of a programme to demolish this rock which was less than 20 percent attached to the mountain side and posed such a high risk to road users, that the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has closed the Milford Road from the eastern tunnel entrance since 23 May 2013.

NZTA Southland Area Manager Peter Robinson says a quick initial aerial inspection following the blast late this afternoon, shows a substantial amount of rock came down, but with the light fading at the site it wasn’t possible to take a close-up look. An on-site inspection is planned for the next patch of clear weather, possibly on Monday, so we can get a more detailed looked at the blast site.

“None of the tunnel infrastructure was damaged in the blast including a temporary portal extension that opened in February. This result has exceeded our expectations and it’s a huge relief to get the amount of rock off mountainside that we did.”

A total 2km exclusion zone including air space was in place around the blast site today, with road closures in place 5km on either side of the Homer Tunnel.

Peter Robinson said until we have completed an up close inspection by rope access we cannot confirm the amount of time needed to clean up the site and assess what if any further work is required. It’s too soon to speculate on when the road might re-open, but we are now in a better position on that front than we were 10 days ago.

The team involved in this work especially those working at the blast site have done a great job in a very tough environment to achieve this positive result he said.

The latest information on progress on this rock removal operation is available at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) or by phoning 0800 444449.

View information about the Milford Road rockfall risk(external link).

Operation Pinnacle blast.

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