Work is still been done to shore up slips and ensure the safety of the Manawatu Gorge before it reopens. Photo/Supplied
Dannevirke bus company owner Derek Rose is hot under the collar after news the road through the Manawatu Gorge will remain closed for at least three more weeks.
The road has been closed since April 24 because of slips and a dropout and Mr Rose told the Dannevirke News he’s angry there’s been little information in the past week on the state of the road.
“It’s costing everyone and I’ve had enough,” he said. “This isn’t on and I’m not happy with how NZTA [New Zealand Transport Agency] have handled this. They don’t tell us what’s going on and week after week, all we hear is it’s still closed.”
Mr Rose runs two buses a day over the Saddle Rd and he said it’s tough on trucks and heavy vehicles.
“Cars don’t handle it too well either, I had to pull a car out of a drain this morning.”
The Transport Agency has said the road will remain closed while safety works and geotechnical assessments are completed.
Transport Agency highway manager Ross I’Anson said physical repairs, including the installation of new rockfall netting and the reinstatement of a damaged retaining wall, were on track to be completed by the end of this week as planned.
However, further geological assessments of the slip sites were needed to assess the level of potential risk of further slips or rockfalls before the road could be safely opened.
Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis said safety in the gorge was paramount.
“The significance of the slips is always a concern and a number of our residents have known people whose vehicles have been hit with falling rocks,” she said.
“They can be quite scary
“However, I know this wasn’t the news people were expecting and it won’t help the pain people are feeling and I want the NZTA to keep to this three-week date to give businesses a good opportunity to plan forward.”
Mrs Collis said she had travelled over the Saddle Rd and expressed her concern about the state of some parts of the road.
Once the gorge is open she wants work on the Saddle to be completed as soon as possible.
Mr I’Anson said the NZTA was working with its contractors and independent geotechnical engineers to complete the assessments as soon as possible. “But these evaluations must be thorough to ensure the road is safe when it is reopened,” he said.
“While the slips have been cleared and the road has been repaired at both sites, the slips have altered the rock faces above the road and we need to thoroughly assess any additional risks the newly exposed rock might pose for road users.
“The recent slips have resulted in new cracking in the rock faces on either side of the slips and we need to identify if there is a risk of additional rock falling on to the road and, most importantly, what additional work may be required to provide further protection for road users.
“The geology of the gorge is complex and these assessments must be very thorough to address that complexity.”
Mr I’Anson said it would not be known what, if any, additional work might be required until the geological assessments were completed, a process expected to take up to three weeks. “We understand how frustrating the current situation in the gorge is and we know the significant impact it is having for road users, businesses and residents, but the safety of road users is paramount.”
He said that in parallel with the geological assessments of the gorge slip sites, NZTA would be progressing with the detailed business case process to look at all of the options available to provide a long-term, resilient and safe connection through the Ruahine/Tararua Ranges.
“This is a very significant route which forms a strong link into the central freight hub of the Manawatu and provides vital connections for people in the region. The NZTA is focused on providing strong, resilient transport links that contribute to the region’s economic growth and prosperity,” he said.
Mrs Collis said she and other regional mayors would be pushing for a long-term solution.
“We will be making sure the gorge funding is a priority in regional and national transport plans.”
The New Zealand First deputy leader, Ron Mark, in Dannevirke yesterday morning for a breakfast meeting, said he didn’t understand why it was taking so long to come up with a solution to the continuing problems with the Manawatu Gorge.
“The gorge is the lifeblood connection for Tararua and it’s strategic for the nation,” he said. “After all the work which has been done and all the money poured into the gorge, we need solutions.”
Mr Mark said he believed a cut-and-cover option might be the best, but he’d also like to see a feasibility study on a tunnel.
“Connectivity is important for regional development and I look around at all the money being flicked into Auckland. The Government needs to be pushed like hell to put money into a final solution for the gorge.”
Meanwhile Mrs Collis has accepted an invitation to take a look in the gorge as soon as possible.
– Hawkes Bay Today