The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says State Highway 29 (SH29) at Ruahihi Bluffs is to be closed this weekend so that rocks can be removed to minimise the risk of further rock falls onto the state highway.
SH29 was closed Sunday morning after heavy rain the night before caused rocks to fall onto the road. The NZTA re-opened the road to a single lane later on in the afternoon, which still remains in place.
Bay of Plenty state highway manager, Brett Gliddon, says an assessment of the bluff this morning has confirmed that there are unstable rocks high up the bluff.
"The large rocks and trees that were removed in June were successful in eliminating an immediate risk of those falling onto the state highway. The heavy rain over the last eight weeks including the heavy rain on Saturday night has undermined the stability of the bluff and has caused other sections of rock to be weakened which now need to be removed" says Mr Gliddon.
An earth bund has been put in place to protect road users and prevent further rock falls from encroaching on the highway. The Ruahihi Bluffs is located approximately 17km west of Tauranga near the Ruahihi Power Station.
Mr Gliddon says closing the State Highway 29, a high use highway is not ideal, but essential to ensure the removal of these rocks can be done safely.
"We will be closing the road so that the blasting activity can be undertaken safely. We do apologise to drivers for the inconvenience, we also ask people to avoid the area if possible.
A detour via Poripori Road will in place, but not ideal for large volumes of traffic. Drivers are asked p to use alternate state highways where possible such as SH2 if travelling between Tauranga and Auckland, and SH36 and SH5 if travelling from Tauranga to the South Waikato and other westbound destinations. The detour via Poripori Road will add an additional 30 minutes to journey times.
Contractors worked tirelessly yesterday to re-open the road quickly as possible. Workers will continue to manage traffic through a stop/go operation until the weekend closure commences.
The closing times of SH29 at Ruahihi will start at approximately 7.00am on Saturday (18 August) morning and the road will remain closed until 6.00pm on Sunday (19 August) evening. The road is expected to be reopened immediately thereafter.
Mr Gliddon says before starting their journeys people should check with the NZTA's freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS or 0800 44 44 49, or its website www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) for up-to-the-minute info on road conditions.