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Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway

  •   What is happening?

    State Highway 3 through the Manawatū Gorge is no longer a safe road option and has been closed indefinitely. A safe resilient and efficient replacement SH3 corridor is required. The Transport Agency has been working with key stakeholders and the community to identify the preferred corridor for a new route connecting the Manawatū, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and Northern Wairarapa. The new road will run from near the western entry of the closed SH3 gorge route, cross the Ruahine Ranges north of the gorge, and reconnect to SH3 at Woodville.

  •   Why can’t you just open the Gorge?

    State Highway 3 (SH3) through the Manawatū Gorge has been closed since slips caused major damage to the road on 24 April 2017 following severe weather. Continued instability at the Kerry’s Wall site has closed the Manawatū Gorge indefinitely.

    Geotechnical engineers recently confirmed a large area above the Kerry’s Wall rock face is highly unstable, with the entire hillside is continuing to move. The rate of movement indicates a slip as large (or larger than) the 2011 slip which closed the road for 14 months could come down at any time.

    During the weekend of 22 to 24 July 2017, another slip caused significant damage to the road in a new location towards the Ashhurst end of the gorge. There have been further slips and cracks in the gorge since then. Those same risks mean the road cannot be safely re-opened for motorists until the risks are resolved.

  •   Which route is available instead?

    State highway traffic is being rerouted across the Saddle Road (north of the gorge) and the Pahīatua Track (south of the gorge). Given the increased traffic and associated wear and tear on these local roads, the Transport Agency has taken over their maintenance and management since the middle of 2017. Significant upgrades have been carried out on the Saddle Road to ensure it is suitable for the increased traffic volumes. Works have also been undertaken on the Pahīatua Track to enable it to deal with the increase in traffic.

  •   What is the Transport Agency doing about increased traffic through Ashhurst?

    The Transport Agency acknowledges the increase in traffic over the Saddle Road, particularly in terms of heavy vehicles, is causing disruption to Ashhurst residents. We have undertaken a number of measures, including resealing Salisbury Road to reduce noise. We have engaged with the local community to identify further measures and these are or will be implemented this year.

  •   What input has the community had so far?

    We have been engaging with the local community throughout this project to help us find the best outcome for all. Consultation started in 2017, when the community and stakeholders provided extensive feedback on a long list of options to replace SH3 through the Manawatū Gorge. Once a short list of four options was released, the Agency held further stakeholder workshops and public information sessions.

    Some of the key themes from this feedback included gradient/steepness, impact on local facilities and schools, travel time and construction time - which was taken into account when we shortlisted the preferred option. Many submissions touched on impacts any new road will have on the communities in Woodville and Ashhurst in particular.

    A preferred route was selected in March 2018, followed by stakeholder workshops and public information sessions in July and August. As the project progressed, we went back to the community with fresh information in November 2018. Engagement with key stakeholders and the local community will continue for the duration of the project and beyond.

  •   How have iwi been involved in the project?

    Various iwi have indicated an interest in the area of the project. As the Transport Agency represents the Crown, iwi are part of the project through their partnership with the Crown. Iwi have been involved from early in the project conception and will continue to be part of the project through the consenting, design, construction and post-construction activities.

  •   What about regional connectivity – what’s being done about that?

    The new road will connect into the local network and will support ongoing improvements to roads around Palmerston North. Planning of these improvements is progressed by a Joint Working Group with local authority and industry representatives (Palmerston North Integrated Transport Initiative). Work of the group is being informed by KiwiRail which is planning a new freight hub for the district. The community will be consulted on these works in due course.

  •   Will the gorge route ever reopen?

    No final decision has been made on the future of the current SH3 route through the gorge at this stage. We will continue to monitor the gorge for geological stability. While the current conditions are highly unstable and the road is not a viable long-term state highway option, we cannot categorically rule out the road ever re-opening in some form. Our priority now is moving forward and building a new long-term solution which will be safe, reliable and resilient.

  •   You have a preferred corridor, what happens next?

    In November 2018, the project team lodged a Notice of Requirement (NoR) to designate land for the proposed road corridor with the Manawatū District, Palmerston North City and Tararua District Councils. The NoR is a critical step to obtain statutory Resource Management Act (RMA) approvals to authorise the proposed new road across the Ruahine Ranges.

    The NoR includes details on how effects of the project, be they cultural, social or ecological, are intended to be managed. Public NoR hearings were scheduled by a Panel of Commissioners and were held in March and April 2019. The Panel of Commissioners is now considering its findings.

    Following the designation process, additional RMA consents will need to be obtained from Horizons Regional Council to authorise works such as earthworks, discharges to ground and water, as well as works in streams and rivers. These consents will be applied for once a greater level of the detailed design of the project has been developed.

  •   What has the NZ Transport Agency done since two large slips closed the Manawatū Gorge road on 24 April 2017?

    Since two large slips closed the road on 24 April 2017, the evening before Anzac Day, the Transport Agency has:

    • Cleared 15,000m3 of material from the road from the two original slips
    • Cleared a further 4,100m3 from three subsequent slips
    • Used helicopters and monsoon buckets to sluice away loosened material which was at risk of falling, and then cleared this extra material away
    • Inspected all affected bridges along the route
    • Inserted 16 support beams into the rock face in two locations, to support the installation of extra rock fall netting
    • Extensively drilled to determine the volume of water within the Kerry's Wall slip site, which showed initial water flow of 35 litres per minute
    • Engaged specialist geotechnical and structural engineers to assess the latest information at the slip sites to determine what's happening, and what the safety factors are on a daily basis.
  •  Where exactly have the slips been?

    There is a slip known as the ‘Anzac’ slip 6.4km from the Woodville end of the gorge. Around 10,000m3 material was removed from this site and the road has been repaired.

    There is another slip at ‘Kerry’s Wall’ 4.5km from the Ashhurst turnoff on SH3. Around 5,000m3 was removed from this site.

    Since Anzac Day, there have been three smaller slips at these same two locations.

    Subsequently sometime on the weekend of 23–24 July 2017 there was another large slip about 500 metres from the locked gate at the Ashhurst end of the gorge. Approximately 10,000m3 of material, including large boulders, fell on the road. This slip has also caused significant damage to a bridge.

    In late 2017 and early 2018, there have been further cracks and slips of varying sizes.

  •   Will the new highway be tolled?

    It is Transport Agency policy to consider tolling for any new state highway. Any consideration of tolling will take into account the requirements of the Land Transport Management Act, and include possible impacts to deliver outcomes under the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport (GPS), the original project intent, and other requirements under the Land Transport Management Act 2003, as set out in our tolling policy.

    Tolling policy

  •   Will there be walking and cycling facilities along the new route?

    The project design will include the provision of safe and appropriate walking and cycling facilities along the new route. This design development will be done in conjunction with project partners and stakeholders. Separated walking and cycling facilities have also been included in the design for the new bridge to cross the Manawatū River, while ongoing access to the popular walking tracks in the Manawatū Gorge Scenic Reserve on the south side of the Manawatū River, both at Ashhurst and Woodville, will be maintained.

    The construction of a walking and cycling facility at the existing Ashhurst bridge has been brought forward to next year, and we will provide a new walking and cycling connection from the Ashhurst Bridge to the carpark west of the Manawatū Gorge Scenic Reserve.

    On the Woodville side, we will provide an extension to the existing footpath between the centre of Woodville and Hampson Street (subject to land availability, which is likely), and the facility will be extended westwards, through or around the proposed new roundabout. This will facilitate access to the Ferry Reserve, delivering a part of the Lindauer Arts Trail.

    View lodged Notice of Requirement (NoR) documents

  •   What is the cost of the project?

    The total project cost is estimated at $620 million. This includes the project business case, purchase of property required for the project, and the pre-implementation and construction phases.