Wellington., 3 September, 2013 – A team effort to reopen the Manawatu Gorge Slip, following the largest road landslip in New Zealand history, has won the Medium Road Project at this year’s Roading New Zealand Excellence Awards.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), MWH Global, Higgins Contractors and BBO responded to the emergency caused by a large slip closing the Manawatu Gorge section of State Highway 3 on 18 August 2011. Two months later this vital transport link had another destructive landslide in the same spot.
The team overcame significant challenges in a complex situation. Safety and cost were balanced with the need to quickly reopen the road for the public, while also providing the best alternative routes.
Mike Skelton, Local Transportation Group Manager, MWH Global said, “We cleared the slip and rebuilt the road as quickly as possible. Getting the traffic back through the Gorge was vital in order to achieve our overall objective of allowing residents in the affected communities to ‘get their lives back’. Throughout the 13 months of the project one of our top priorities was ensuring safe travel on alternative routes and through the Gorge whilst keeping the public fully informed of progress.”
The Manawatu Gorge section of State Highway 3 is one of the most difficult roads in New Zealand to maintain. The narrow road is cut into the Southern side of the Gorge and is perched 20 meters above the Manawatu level.
“I am delighted that the team’s efforts have been recognised,” said Mark Martin, Group Maintenance Engineer, Higgins Contractors. “Working round the clock seven days a week in difficult winter conditions allowed the road to be opened four months ahead of schedule. What’s more, the Gorge has been hit by heavy rainfall a number of times since and there have been no further slips.”
The completion of the project in November 2012 was summed up by David McGonigal, NZTA State Highway Regional Manager, who says the team did a great job under pressure. “The crew have stuck at the task for a long time, and they can now reflect on a job well done. They’ve rebuilt an entirely new piece of highway in a superbly orchestrated blur of activity, and words can’t express the value of their hard work for the Manawatu region and beyond. Every cliche about true grit and Kiwi ‘number eight wire’ ingenuity comes to mind, but at the end of the day, they had a job to do – a huge job – and they did it.”
Throughout the project the team ensured the native environment was protected and also constructed a forest lookout at the top of the slip for the community to enjoy.