Ōtaki Gorge Road slips
Ōtaki Forks and Tararua Forest Park is a jewel in the Kāpiti crown and has been much missed as a place to get into nature and a visitor drawcard. The road remains closed to vehicles and pedestrians for safety reasons.
Vehicle access to Ōtaki Forks remains closed.
Walkers are not to cross at Blue Bluff, for their own safety.
The Department of Conservation has established an alternative public walking access to the Tararua Forest Park.
There are now two slip areas in the Blue Bluff area:
- The slow slip detected in September 2020 which has seen the road to slump towards the river and caused the original closure.
- A second significant slip 100m further towards Ōtaki Forks which has completely covered the road. This occurred during the heavy rain event of 6-8 December 2021.
- The wet winter of 2022 has sparked further movement in the slip area.
Update October 2022
Plans to open a walking track over the Ōtaki Gorge Rd slips currently blocking access to Ōtaki Forks and the Tararua Forest Park are on hold pending further geotechnical and other expert assessment.
While a walking track has been built over the slips, the incredibly wet winter has caused further movement and instability. This includes new slips in other areas, a risk of further washout and the possibility of rock fall.
Council continues to take a cautious approach in the interests of public safety and keep the new walking track closed until we can be sure the area is stable enough to open.
We know this will be frustrating news for many who had hoped to easily return to the Forks area and wider Forest Park, but we must put public safety at the forefront of decision-making.
The slip area is starting to dry as the weather improves, but deep-seated water is still coming out and it remains hazardous.
Live monitoring equipment has been installed to provide better information about movement and activity, and sensors are showing there has been some slipping caused by the wet winter.
We are seeking further advice from geotechnical engineers and track experts.
The DOC-built emergency walking track is open and provides access to the Tararua Forest Park. Please note this is a challenging walk requiring good fitness and tramping experience.
Meanwhile, we are in the process of developing longer-term options for Ōtaki Gorge Rd.
We know it's frustrating to have had access to Ōtaki Forks closed for such a long time.
As the organisation responsible for the road Kāpiti Coast District Council understands the desire to see it reopen.
When there are significant safety issues, like the slip that has caused a section of the road to slump and risk of dropping out into the river, we have to put the safety of people first. While the road remained unstable closure was our only option.
Rushing into reopening a road that is showing this kind of movement is not wise. Fixing any road requires solid information about the ground underneath, a suitable design, funding and a process to select contractors to do the work.
Planning work is under way and options will be presented to Council for consideration in due course.
Work to date
Research work on the earlier slow slip was ongoing throughout 2021. Starting in April 2021 we began looking at how we might be able to open road access to Ōtaki Forks, moving from monitoring the slip to active investigation on the site. This involved specialised geotechnical work including test pits, core holes, and installing equipment to monitor groundwater levels.
Geotechnical investigation showed the slip zone runs deep into two types of material and that wet periods and heavy rain are key factors that accelerate movement. By the end of May, our investigation had found several metres of river gravels deposited when the river was much higher many thousands of years ago, with fractured greywacke bedrock underneath that.
This information would inform the development of options and a design for how the road could be reopened.
The wet period in June 2021 reactivated the slow slip and we observed significant deformation of the road and the slip face slump into the river.
In the latter part of 2021 the road had stabilised enough to reopen part of it for a walking and cycling track along the wall side of the road. Site works had progressed prior to the recent major slip.
This would provide much better access for those wishing to make the 4km journey to the Forks by foot or bike. Re-opening the road to vehicles was still not an option.
The slip triggered by rain event of 6 to 8 December 2021 has forced us to cancel that plan.
About Blue Bluff
The Blue Bluff section of the Ōtaki Gorge Road is an a area that becomes active during wet weather.
The road is on a steep embankment above the Ōtaki River, which is naturally degrading the river bed and embankments. The Ōtaki Forks area receives intensive rainfall further adding to the challenges of this road.
The road has been closed to walkers and vehicles since September 2020, when heavy rain caused new damage to the bank. The road had been closed for seven months in 2016 due to slip activity at the same location.
Pictures of the slip
- Improving access to Ōtaki Forks (30 June 2022)
- Investigative work to restore access to Ōtaki Forks kicks off (20 April 2021)
- Ōtaki Gorge Road to remain closed at Blue Bluff for summer peak (3 Nov 2020)
- New damage at Blue Bluff, Ōtaki Gorge Road causing concern (25 Sept 2020)
- Minor slip cleared at Ōtaki Gorge Road (24 August 2016)
- Ōtaki Gorge Road reopens after seven-month closure (15 July 2016)
- Council urges people to stay clear of Blue Bluff slip (22 Feb 2016)
- Fresh slip at Blue Bluff, Ōtaki Gorge Road (20 Feb 2016)