Digger balances on top of slip in effort to repair severed road

A big yellow digger is made to look tiny against one of Kaikoura's enormous slips.

Dislodging rock in a digger can be hard enough, let alone when the machinery is balancing precariously on top of a massive slip.

But this was just another day on the job for Paul O'Sullivan as he assisted in efforts to clear Marlborough's Awatere Valley Rd on Thursday.

The Edridge Contracting excavator said he manouevred his machine to the top over five hours.

Paul O'Sullivan has the unenviable job of moving debris from the top of this slip in Marlborough.

Paul O'Sullivan has the unenviable job of moving debris from the top of this slip in Marlborough.

He was tasked with the removal of rock overhanging the landslide which could have proved deadly for abseilers in the next phase of the road rebuild. 

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An additional spotter helped O'Sullivan monitor his position.

With more than 30 years of experience in earthworks, O'Sullivan said the job was nothing out of the ordinary. 

"I've got a head for heights and done many tricky ones over the years," he said.

"It was a fantastic view from the top but you've got to focus on what you're doing."

There were six families cut off by the slip and it was important for them to have road access again, O'Sullivan said.

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"I just feel for the poor people stuck up the valley, they need this to be done," he said.

The next phase of the job would see specialist geologist abseilers remove rocks which were jammed on the slip face using dynamite.

A photo of the digger circulated on social media and O'Sullivan said he was pleased that people appreciated the work his team were doing.

"We've had a few people call up and say thank you," he said.

"The photo really made it look worse than what it is, it doesn't look as extreme in person."

Work would continue on the Awatere Valley Rd slip this week, O'Sullivan said.

A helicopter was planned to rinse the slip free of smaller rocks to allow a remote-controlled excavator to then cut into it.

 - The Marlborough Express


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