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‘Final blow’ for Manawatu Gorge

The fresh slip on the Manawatu Gorge over the weekend. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Jake Beleski

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Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis fears a fresh slip of 10,000 cubic metres of soil and rock may be the final nail in the coffin for the Manawatu Gorge.

The new slip — which included large boulders — was discovered on Monday morning by contractors inspecting the road, about 500m from the locked gate at the Ashhurst end of the SH3 road.

The slip is likely to have come down over the weekend during heavy rain.

Mrs Collis said the fact that it was on a new site was most concerning.

“My personal opinion is that we’ve just been dealt the final blow.

“I’m deeply concerned and I just think they can’t guarantee the safety anymore — it’s obviously still moving and it’s a new site.”

The gorge has been closed indefinitely since April, and businesses in the area were struggling to cope without a steady flow of visitors, she said.

“It is hard to deal with every single day.

“If the weather’s not great and you haven’t got those people travelling through every day, it’s always difficult.”

The council had been working hard to get the traffic count up, and they were at “about 74 per cent”.

It was a sad day for the entire region, she said.

“It’s a sad day for everyone because the gorge is part of our landscape.

“It’s part of our tourism and our connection, and there will be a lot of people with mixed emotions.”

Mrs Collis’ preference as an alternative was for a tunnel to be put in, and she said although it would be costly, it “could be done”.

A straighter and faster connection would be the best long-term option, and would ensure the next generation wouldn’t have to face the same problems, she said.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott will be visiting both ends of the gorge with Transport Minister Simon Bridges on Wednesday.

“[The latest slip] just reinforces the reason for closing the gorge indefinitely,” Mr Scott said.

“The reason for that is the health and safety of our commuters, and that demonstrates that the place is extremely unstable and moving all the time.”

He said the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had put “110 per cent effort” into upgrading the Saddle Rd, and were fast-tracking a business case to put in a safe and viable alternative route to the gorge in case it was closed forever.

The gorge was recognised as an important route for commuters as well as freight, and connectivity was a strength of the National government, Mr Scott said.

“We’ve already done great roads from Wellington to Masterton and east and west of Dannevirke, all the way through to Woodville.

“Now we just have to finish that off, while making it sustainable and safe.”

NZTA regional transport systems manager Ross I’Anson said the latest slip demonstrated the gorge’s current instability.

He said it illustrated how prone the gorge was to slips due to the substantial movement recently measured in the hillside.

“The area is highly unstable and the transport agency is warning people to stay away from the slip site and not to proceed beyond the locked gates at the entrances to the gorge.”

Geotechnical engineers will be reviewing the new slip and hillside above the slip.

Mr I’Anson said drivers should continue to use the alternative routes of Saddle Rd and the Pahiatua Track.

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr Scott get your delusional head out of the sand, the roads are a disgrace in the Wairarapa thanks to shoddy contractor work, look at the passing lanes both side of Carterton, they are uneven and prone to breaking up.
    Connectivity is become a weakness of your mob as the only thing you are really doing is a bit of reactive fiddling, there is no plan to improve connectivity to the regions by doing what should have been done years ago, tunnels thought the Rimutakas and the gorge.

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