A look inside the stricken Manawatu Gorge
Rocks are still falling in the Manawatu Gorge as diggers get to work to clear the slip that blocks the road.
State Highway 3 is closed until May 18 after two slips blocked both lanes of the main link between Manawatu and the eastern regions of the North Island.
The NZ Transport Agency allowed access to the slips on Saturday to provide a first-hand look at what damage had been caused this time around along the troubled route.
The first of the two slips had been cleared, but a few more rocks had since fallen, and work was being carried out to clear the second slip of about 4000 cubic metres.
The two slips were only 2 kilometres apart and NZ Transport Agency highway manager Ross I’Anson said the smaller slip was the first to occur.
It happened late last Monday night, so the decision was made to close the road until they could assess the damage in the morning.
Then the second slip, which was much larger, happened some time during the night.
However, I’Anson said this larger slip was only about 1 per cent of what the 2011 slip, which closed the road for 14 months, was like.
‘‘We do get slips and that’s just the nature of the rocks ... and we can’t stop them.
‘‘We have the netting and it does stop small slips.’’
The netting would not stop larger slips and I’Anson said for the meantime they would carry on putting rock fall netting through the gorge to help stop smaller slips.
Long-term options for the gorge needed to be assessed.
Weekly checks were done on all the roads NZTA were responsible for and the gorge received extra attention in those.
But it was impossible to be able to tell if a slip was going to happen, I’Anson said.
‘‘There’s water getting into the rocks and it’s slowly saturating the surface and when it gets heavy enough it comes [down].’’
Going over the Saddle Rd was only about five minutes longer, but I’Anson said they recognised the impact it had on people, particularly trucking companies.
‘‘We appreciate things like this do impact on the economy.’’
Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said the road closure highlighted the need for farmers to stand stock prior to transport as they use the alternative route over the Saddle Rd.
‘‘Animal welfare guidelines recommend standing stock off green feed for at least four hours before transportation.
‘‘This is particularly important for stock that are to be carried over the Saddle Rd route, which is especially windy and steep.’’
Work is under way to clear the slip in the Manawatu Gorge.