Council opts to re-open Ōtaki Gorge Rd at Blue Bluff

10 May 2024, 3:23 PM

Work to reinstate road access to the Ōtaki Forks and Tararua Forest Park will begin in the new financial year following a decision by Kāpiti Coast District Council yesterday (Thursday 9 May).

Ōtaki Gorge Rd has been closed since 2020 by two major slips at the area known as Blue Bluff, 12km inland from the Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway. 

  • The September 2020 “slow slip” which continued to shift for many months and saw the road slump towards the river.
  • The December 2021 “over slip” across the road, approximately 3000 cubic metres in volume and 100m in length, and which has continued to show signs of movement since.

Kāpiti Coast District Mayor Janet Holborow says the Ōtaki Forks area and Tararua Forest Park is a taonga that has provided opportunities for recreation, education, fun, adventure, peace and much more over a very long time. It’s also on the Te Araroa Trail route.

“We’ve heard from the community that this is a unique part of the Kāpiti Coast and needs to be accessible to all people, from the hardiest of trampers to children to the elderly,” Mayor Holborow says.

“Access to nature is vital – for our health, wellbeing and economy – so we’re pleased to now have a plan in place.”

Council considered a range of options for the area, including closing the road completely, building swing bridges across the river, and building long-term walking access over the existing slips.

“Opening the road is the best option and we are looking forward to work getting underway,” Mayor Holborow says.

“We acknowledge this decision has been a long time coming, but the forces of nature in the Ōtaki Gorge are powerful and we’ve had to consider a lot of factors.

“The loss of access has been sad for many in the community but especially difficult for those living beyond the slip site. We’d like to thank them for their patience and kindness as we work through the challenges of this project.”

Group Manager Infrastructure and Asset Management Sean Mallon says the job is estimated to cost $7.5m, to be funded by Council and the NZ Transport Agency. Council’s share would be around a third of that.

“This is an estimate and could change when work begins,” Mr Mallon says.

“There are some unknowns in the over slip, so we’ll have hold points during the construction process to allow for re-evaluation and progress reporting.”

Mr Mallon says there are no cheap ways of resolving this issue.

“We know how important this place is for a whole range of reasons and we’re looking forward to getting it open. We’ll also continue to investigate other potential alternative routes for providing long-term access, like swing bridges.”

Council aims to complete detailed design of the repairs and apply for resource consents by October 2024, with work on the repairs to follow.