Why can't you just reopen the Gorge road?
State Highway 3 through the Manawatū Gorge has been closed since severe weather on 24 April 2017 caused slips that damaged the road. Continued instability at the Kerry’s Wall site has closed the gorge indefinitely.
A large area above the Kerry’s Wall rock face is highly unstable and the entire hillside continues to move. The rate of movement suggests a slip as large, or larger than, the 2011 slip that closed the road for 14 months could come down at any time.
In July 2017, another slip caused significant damage to the road in a new location towards the Ashhurst end of the gorge, and there have been further slips and cracks since.
Which routes are available instead?
State highway traffic is being rerouted across the Saddle Road north of the gorge, and the Pahiatua Track south of the gorge. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has been managing and maintaining these roads since 2017.
Significant upgrades have been carried out on the Saddle Road to ensure it is suitable for the increased traffic volumes. Works have also been undertaken on the Pahiatua Track to enable it to deal with the increase in traffic.
Will the gorge route ever reopen?
A final decision hasn’t been made on the future of the SH3 route through the gorge and we will continue to monitor the gorge for geological stability. Whilst the current conditions are highly unstable and the road is not a viable long-term state highway option, we cannot categorically rule out the road ever re-opening in some form. Our priority now is building a long-term solution that will be safe, reliable, and resilient.
Where were the slips?
The ‘Anzac’ slip is 6.4km from the Woodville end of the gorge. The ‘Kerry’s Wall’ slip is 4.5km from the Ashhurst turnoff on SH3. Since Anzac Day 2017, there have been three smaller slips at these locations.
What has been done since the slips?
Since the gorge road was closed Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has:
- cleared 15,000 cubic metres of material from the road from the two original slips
- cleared 4,100 cubic metres from three subsequent slips
- used helicopters and monsoon buckets to sluice loosened material at risk of falling
- inspected all affected bridges along the route
- inserted 16 support beams into the rock face in two locations to support the installation of extra rock-fall netting
- extensively drilled to determine the volume of water within the Kerry's Wall slip site
- engaged specialist geotechnical and structural engineers to identify what's happening at the slip sites and to monitor safety factors.
How many vehicles used the gorge road when it was open?
Before the gorge road closed, around 7,600 vehicles used the route every day. About 1,100 of these were trucks.