30 Jun 2009

No-go area for boats amid landslide fears

10:58 pm on 30 June 2009

An exclusion zone for boats has been put in place next to Waihi village at the southern end of Lake Taupo as a safety measure in case of a landslide.

The village in the central North Island was evacuated and closed on Monday after growing fears of a landside in the hills above the settlement due to increases in seismic and geothermal activity.

Fifty residents were allowed back to their homes briefly on Tuesday to pick up any belongings they need and to get their pets. The village is not expected to reopen until at least Friday.

A state of emergency has been declared to allow Civil Defence to protect property in the village and stop unwanted people from entering.

Taupo Civil Defence controller Shamus Howard says the no-go area runs from the Tongaririo delta to about 600 metres northwest of the village and will stay in effect until further notice.

Mr Howard says the risk of a landslide above Waihi village is difficult to predict. Technical experts from GNS and the regional council are carrying out detailed work to determine what may happen, but all agree a landslide is likely at some stage.

Waihi was the site of three landslides in 1780, 1846 and 1910, which claimed more than 200 lives.

State Highway 41 between Tokaanu to Pukawa over the Waihi hill will stay closed for the rest of the week due to land instability.

The road will be open only to emergency vehicles until geotechnical testing on the stability of the hill. Detours are in place.

Earthquakes continue

Small earthquakes continue to occur near Waihi village. The latest earthquake, magnitude 2.9, occurred at 4.49am on Tuesday.

A magnitude 2.8 quake occurred at 8.37pm on Monday. Another, magnitude 2.7 quake occurred at 6am on Monday.

Two tremors on Saturday were greater than magnitude four on the Richter scale.