Another slip at the Manawatu Gorge delays reopening
Another slip will delay the Manawatu Gorge's reopening, as commuters are forced to use windy hill roads for at least another week.
Meanwhile, bad weather is hampering cleanup efforts and has forced a temporary halt to work on the site.
State Highway 3 through the gorge is the main link between Manawatu and the eastern regions of the North Island. It was closed after a large slip covered both lanes on April 24.
A smaller slip that also fell about the same time was cleared and it was hoped the road would re-open on Thursday, but the latest rock fall has put paid to that.
* Work in the Manawatu Gorge to clear slip continues
* A look inside the closed Manawatu Gorge
* Work finally begins on large Manawatu Gorge slip
* Manawatu Gorge closed overnight following slip
About 2000 cubic metres of debris thundered down the Tararua-range side of the gorge on Sunday night.
And on Monday, the NZ Transport Agency announced "hazardous conditions caused by poor weather" had forced a temporary halt to work on the notoriously unstable route.
"While contractors have been able to clear some of the new material, there is a risk that further rocks and other loose material, sitting above the slip, may come down," a statement from the agency says.
Its highway manager Ross I'Anson didn't yet have a new re-opening date for the gorge, but said: "The situation will be reassessed at the end of the week."
"We're disappointed that we won't be able to re-open the road this week as planned and we know how frustrating these closures are for everyone, but the conditions at the slip site at the moment are simply too unstable for work to continue safely."
Forecast rain over the next few days was expected to wash down unstable material, allowing the cleanup to continue.
Work on the large slip site was going well, with contractors clearing remaining debris from the road, I'Anson said.
"Our crews will be clearing material as soon as it is safe to do so."
The Pahiatua Track and Saddle Rd are alternative routes for motorists, but the increase in traffic on the usually quiet roads is disrupting people unused to the constant murmur of traffic.
Meanwhile, businesses that rely on gorge traffic are doing it tough.
In 2011, a large slip closed the Manawatu Gorge road for 14 months and two slips in 2015 also blocked the road.
The slip in 2011 cost $15.8 million to repair and more than $800,000 was spent on two major slips in 2015.