26 Apr 2017

Closure of lifeline road 'extremely disappointing'

8:25 am on 26 April 2017

Manawatu Gorge is a lifeline for Woodville and its temporary closure is 'extremely disappointing', a business owner in the town says.

Manawatu Gorge is prone to slips, and will stay closed for three weeks.

One of the large slips that have closed Manawatu Gorge. Photo: New Zealand Transport Agency

The Transport Agency expects the pass to be closed for three weeks after two slips covered both lanes in two parts of the Gorge road on Monday.

The larger of the two, a 3500 cubic metre slip at the northern, Woodville, end of the gorge road, could take three weeks to clear, the agency said. A 200 cubic metre slip at the Ashhurst end would be cleared quickly. The agency said the northern slip was small compared to the size of the large 2011 slip, which closed the road for 16 months

The owner of fish and chip shop Fish Spot, John Gooding, said remembered the disruption from the closure in 2011 and said the latest slip was a blow.

"It's extremely disappointing knowing the damage that was done last time.

"It was quite critical really, the gorge closure. Traffic primarily passes us then. People tend to take the easiest and shortest route possible which is not good for the town."

He said he could lose up to half his revenue without the traffic coming through the town, which he described as a lifeline.

"Woodville needs this traffic. Without the traffic, Woodville won't exist."

An aerial view of the slip near Woodville.

An aerial view of the slip near Woodville. Photo: NZTA

Tararua District Council Mayor, Tracey Collis, was more optimistic.

"Since the big slip, when [the road] was closed for a considerable period, people automatically think back to that and they remember that pain, they remember that hurt." she said. But the alternative route, Saddle Road, was now in much better condition.

Ms Collis said Woodville itself was also more of a destination, whereas it used to be a pitstop, totally reliant on passing traffic.

"It's a thriving hub, it's got many new businesses, wonderful cafes and it really has become a destination so people now know that and they may make that choice to come to Woodville."

Transport Agency highway manager Ross I'Anson said the slips might have been caused by seismic activity near Hawke's Bay on Monday night or by the build up of moisture in the hillside.

Mr Anson said the larger, Woodville, slip had fallen on top of a bridge which would needa structural check after the debris was removed.