Fears for urupa delay SH1 slip-clearing work

12:22 pm on 17 December 2016

Work clearing a slip on State Highway 1 north of Kaikōura has been halted due to concerns it may disturb Māori sites.

Landslide covers state highway 1 - north of Kaikoura

Landslides cover State Highway 1 in several places north of Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The slip at Ohau Point is one of many blocking the highway, and have cut off small settlements such as Rakautara and Clarence.

Three helicopters using monsoon buckets were being used to sluice away loose material, but the Ngāti Kuri hapū is concerned the work could dislodge wahi tapu urupa, sacred burial grounds, in the area.

NZ Transport Agency Kaikoura earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said concerns were raised by the cultural monitor mandated by the local runanga yesterday.

Two iwi members were examining the site today to ensure there would be no risk of that happening.

Rakautara resident Ngaio Te Ua, who was among those trapped by the slip, said despite everybody wanting the work to be done it could not be at the cost of precious sites.

"And I fully support Ngati Kuri going in there with their teams to see whether this is being done," she said.

"Whether they find any artifacts or urupa or remains, I think that the local iwi should be there."

A Transport Agency spokesperson said it was hoped work could resume next week. No artifacts or sites had yet been uncovered, Mr Mutton said.

The government announced on Thursday it was spending up to $2 billion on rebuilding State Highway 1 and the rail corridor along the coastal route to the north and south of Kaikōura.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he was confident some access along the coastal route would be possible within 12 months.