A look in­side the stricken Manawatu Gorge

The Tribune (NZ) - - COMMUNITY COOKBOOK - KIRSTY LAWRENCE

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.’’

PHOTO: DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Work is un­der way to clear the slip in the Manawatu Gorge.

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