Ōtaki Gorge Road closed due to slip
Update - 27 January 2016
We are working with consultants on viable long-term options to restore public access to the popular Ōtaki Forks area, which was closed just before Christmas because of the danger of a major slip.
Ōtaki Gorge Road was closed at Blue Bluff, 13 kilometers inland from SH1, after contractors clearing debris from an earlier slip noticed cracks and deep fissures 300 metres above the road. Work ceased immediately, warning signs were put up and the road has remained closed ever since.
Acting Access and Transport Manager, Tony Martin, says the Council is working with a geologist and engineers to see what can realistically be done long term to restore access to the area.
“We have a geologist examining the composition of the rock and known fault lines at the site and comparing it with historical data to learn more about what is happening.”
Mr Martin says the area has always been challenging to manage.
"This hillside has been moving for many years and has been subject to significant slips. The current road was actually routed around and over a previous slip. In fact the river is now where the original road used to be so the area has always been very active."
While the Council reviews possible long-term solutions, it has also engaged surveyors to undertake on-going monitoring of the site to determine what movement is taking place.
“The surveyors have established ‘datum’ or reference points in various locations and these will be monitored at least every two weeks or after severe weather. This will give us a clear picture of how quickly the slip is moving. The survey information, along with geotechnical advice will help determine whether the problem is in the surface layers or is much deeper-seated.”
Mr Martin says the assessment will go on for at least the next few months and once Council has the data it can start looking at future options but says it’s too early to speculate on what they may be. In the meantime, the Department of Conservation is looking at creating an alternative walking track to enable trampers to access Ōtaki Forks and Tararua Forest Park.
Update - 7 January 2016
Our contractors at Blue Bluff several days ago noticed there was fresh soil in the large cracks above the slip site, so the land appears to be still moving.
Additionally, Metservice has issued a severe weather warning for the Tararua Range tomorrow with predictions of 80+ mm of rain and gale-force winds which would make the area very unsafe.
Some good news for trampers though - Heliworx Kapiti have let us know they have permission to fly into the area to collect/drop off trampers at the tracks and DoC campsite at the end of Ōtaki Gorge Road.
Update - 29 December 2015
Daily monitoring of the slip site continues to check for rockfall and ensure warning signs and barriers are still up.
Update - 22 December 2015
Ōtaki Gorge Road, 13 kilometers inland from SH1, will remain closed over the Christmas holidays at least as concerns mount about the stability of the hillside at a historically unstable area locally know as Blue Bluff.
Kāpiti Coast District Council says the road is closed to traffic and pedestrians and may remain so well into 2016. This means there will be no access to the popular Ōtaki Forks area and Tararua Forest Park.
Acting Group Manager Infrastructure Services Tony Martin says public safety concerns are behind the decision to close the road.
“We have been doing work in the area, clearing debris from previous slips but this week we discovered fresh large cracks 300metres above the road. As a result, the contractors immediately stopped work and we have closed the area while we carry out further assessments.”
Mr Martin says the Council is working with a geologist to monitor the land movement over the coming weeks to determine the scale of the problem.
“Our suspicion is that the cracks indicate the whole hillside could be slipping and we need to find out exactly what is going on. If our worst fears are realised we could be looking at a closure of months rather than weeks. We will know more by the end of January.”
The Council has erected warning signs at the site of the road closure. It has been in touch with DOC, which has cleared the campsite and Council staff are communicating with the one land owner who lives beyond the road closure.
“The family have lived in the area for a long time and know the problems with the land. They are fully cooperating and making contingency plans for the possibility of a long term road closure,” says Mr Martin.
Mayor Ross Church says the Council and Ōtaki Community Board realise that many campers, walkers and picnickers will be disappointed that they won’t be able to access one of the district’s most popular recreational areas over the holiday period.
“We know the timing couldn’t be worse but we simply can’t take a risk with public safety.”
“Ōtaki has a lot of other family activities and recreational opportunities to offer. I encourage holiday makers to check the Council website for details on walks along the Ōtaki River, the popular Haruatai Park for walking and picnicking and recreational opportunities in the wider Kāpiti area.”