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Explosives speed up Waterview work

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Waterview Connection
JASON OXENHAM

BIG PIT: Machinery works at what will be the entrance to the Waterview Connection tunnel. Explosives are being used to break the hard volcanic rock ahead of the arrival of the tunnelling machine. Diggers have to go down 40m.

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Work is proceeding at a rapid pace on New Zealand's biggest roading job.

At the southern end of the Waterview Connection, which will link the southwestern and northwestern motorways, things are beginning to take shape.

It is still early days in the life of what will be a five-year construction job, but as the project's communications manager Gez Jones says, things have to move quickly if the 2016 deadline is to be met.

Those passing by the project at the Waterview end, where the two tunnels will emerge, will have seen how quickly things can change.

Almost daily something new happens - houses are removed, machines are brought in and road and pedestrian routes change.

Mr Johns, whose job includes translating the plans of the "genius" designers involved in the project into language the public can understand, says a huge range of work is being done at any one time.

The main focus in the site within the Alan Wood Reserve is preparing the section which will run underneath what will become a Richardson Rd bridge.

"We're in full construction mode," Mr Johns says.

"The main focus in this site is Richardson Rd, which we're excavating for now.

"When we start tunnelling the spoil that comes out will be taken away and having the bridge built early means we can put trucks on to the motorway straight away, and not on any local roads."

Strict consent conditions guide the progress of the job to make sure the construction process is as efficient and unobtrusive as a $1.4 billion project can be.

To trigger new stages of the work a range of mitigating tasks also have to be ticked off, including things like creating open spaces or landscaping.

Mr Johns says disruption is an inevitable part of the job but the Well Connected Alliance - the group of contractors running the job - is working hard to minimise the negative effects.

Explosives are being used to break through the volcanic rock that needs to be removed before the custom-designed drilling machine can begin tunnelling through the softer material below.

Blasts are used several times a week and require a clear 50m radius around the explosion point.

This means Hendon Ave residents are sometimes required to leave their homes for up to 20 minutes.

Those residents are helped out with vouchers.

"What's really interesting from a local geological point of view is the volcanic rock here is so hard it's breaking the machines. We have to replace parts two to three times a day."

Work on improving areas of the reserve is under way too.

"We're looking to re-landscape and give it a more natural feel," Mr Johns says.

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