Manawatu Gorge road suf­fers an­other blow

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JA­NINE RANKIN AND MIRI SCHROETER

A fresh slip has fallen on the closed road through the Manawatu Gorge.

The third slip since late April has com­pounded the New Zealand Trans­port Agency fears about the gorge’s in­sta­bil­ity, which prompted its in­def­i­nite clo­sure from July 7.

The agency’s re­gional trans­port sys­tems man­ager Ross I’An­son said about 10,000 cu­bic me­tres of ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing large boul­ders, was dis­cov­ered by con­trac­tors in­spect­ing the route on Mon­day morn­ing.

The slip was likely to have come down some time dur­ing the week­end be­cause of heavy rain.

I’An­son said the new slip was about 500 me­tres from the locked gate at the Ash­hurst end of the gorge.

‘‘This il­lus­trates how prone the gorge cur­rently is 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 gate at the en­trances to the gorge.’’

Geotech­ni­cal en­gi­neers would re­view the new slip, and the hill- side above it.

I’An­son said mo­torists should con­tinue to use al­ter­na­tive routes, the Sad­dle Rd and the Pahiatua Track, which were also un­der­go­ing in­ten­sive main­te­nance.

The agency was work­ing on so­lu­tions to is­sues raised by the public in meet­ings last week to man­age the ef­fect of the gorge’s clo­sure, es­pe­cially for Ash­hurst and Woodville.

Commuters on the windy al­ter­na­tives are also do­ing it tough.

Palmer­ston North-based courier driver Ju­dith Gra­ham is wor­ried the daily commute to Dan­nevirke will be­come un­sus­tain­able.

When the gorge was closed for more than one year in 2011/12 her busi­ness with her hus­band was down about $30,000, she said.

This time around, they were ‘‘bear­ing the brunt of it’’ for now, but if the costs got too high they would have to con­sider giv­ing up the courier route they have worked for nine years.

The NZ Trans­port Agency started main­te­nance work on Sad­dle Rd, on July 15, to clean up the dozens of pot­holes that line the road, but this means ve­hi­cle use is re­stricted to one lane.

NZTA The trans­port agency took over the man­age­ment and main­te­nance of Sad­dle Rd from Tararua Dis­trict Coun­cil at the start of July. It plans to have work fin­ished by the start of Au­gust.

A new slip has fallen on the al­ready­closed Manawatu Gorge road.

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