New slips spread along the Manawatū Gorge

Last updated 15:52 05/10/2017

NZ Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson says there have been numerous slips through the Manawatū Gorge lately.

Work to clear slips through the Manawatū Gorge has stopped indefinitely.

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Rock falls continue to rain down on the closed highway through the Manawatū Gorge, but roading officials can't say how many slips have come down since the road closed.

On Thursday, NZ Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson said heavy rain caused regular slips along the mothballed section of State Highway 3.

One slip saw 500 cubic metres of material crumble down, near Kerry's Wall, towards the Ashhurst end, but I'Anson said there was no running tally as some parts of the gorge were too unsafe for contractors to enter.

The rest of the slips were spread along the gorge, but were "barely a truck full" each, he said.

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* Thirteen alternative routes to the Manawatū Gorge discussed
* Next Manawatū Gorge rock fall could be 170 times larger than two previous slips

The main route between Manawatū and Hawke's Bay closed in April when two slips, about 200cum and 3500cum, blocked the road following heavy rain.
In July, the transport agency announced it would close the gorge indefinitely as it was too dangerous for workers to be there.
Recently, the agency revealed that up to 630,000cum of material could drop near Kerry's Wall, which is 170 times larger than both slips in April.
The hillsides were unstable and there was a lot of loose material, I'Anson said.
Despite uncertainty over when and where material could fall, the Department of Conservation is keeping popular walking tracks above the road open.
Manawatū conservation ranger Kelly Hancock said the last slip that affected a walking track was on September 1.
It reduced the track width near the Upper Gorge track by about 20 centimetres, she said.
If 630,000cum of material dropped near Kerry's Wall it would be at least 300m from the walking track, Hancock said.
All tracks are open, except for the Big Slip Lookout track, which is undergoing repairs.
"The future of this track and lookout will depend on the outcome of the long-term solution for the road."
Staff monitored the walking tracks every 2-4 weeks, Hancock said.
The 13 alternative options to the Manawatū Gorge road will be narrowed down by October 11.
On October 11, 12 and 13, the transport agency is holding open days in Palmerston North, Woodville and Ashhurst to discuss the shortlisted options.

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