The NZ Transport Agency says that good progress is being made towards securing the Waioeka Gorge slip site, and planning is underway for a planned temporary diversion route.
The NZTA's State Highways Manager for Bay of Plenty, Brett Gliddon, says the site is busy with activity and contractors are focusing their attention on a large, potentially dangerous rocky outcrop in the middle of the slip.
"We've been able to stabilise the slip above this section, but before the site is stable enough to get stuck in and clear it, we need to remove this unstable section," says Mr Gliddon.
"We're basically dealing with a large piece of unstable material that we think is around 20,000 cubic metres in size - pretty big. We need to bring it down so that we can safely work at the base of the slip and remove the bulk of the material that's blocking the road."
Contractors are using a winch to pull trees and shrub from the outcrop, and then a monsoon bucket to carve off loose debris. The approach is working well, although it will probably take a few more days before the outcrop can be fully removed.
Abseilers are also onsite continually assessing the slope, and the NZTA is working closely with geotechnical experts to monitor the slip's stability.
The NZTA has also made the decision to proceed with a "Plan B" - an option to construct, if possible, a temporary detour route around the slip. However, Mr Gliddon stresses that the viability and safety of such a route will not be known for a few days.
"Our number one concern is the safety of motorists and contractors. If we are able to put a temporary diversion in place, it's likely there will be significant restrictions on using it, so we would stress that it's not going to be a cure-all by any stretch - but we hope this can provide some relief to the region."
"Our top priority remains getting this road fully open so that the region can return to business as usual."
Mr Gliddon says the NZTA has met with councils, community leaders, and commercial vehicle operators and fully understands the disruption the closure is causing.
"This is one of the biggest disruptions the region has ever suffered, we have no illusions about that, and we just want to get it fixed," Mr Gliddon says.
Information on the slip can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz(external link)
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