The slip site is too dangerous for workers to be on.
The large slip that has kept the Haast Pass highway
closed on and off for the past month is slowly stabilising, the
New Zealand Transport Agency says.
However, it also warns it will be some months before
long-term solutions will be in place.
It has now been more than a month since the slip at Diana
Falls first shut the road, and efforts to clear and repair
the vital link in State highway 6 have been continually
thwarted by heavy rain aggravating the slip.
NZTA West Coast regional performance manager Pete Connors
told a Hokitika audience that the 150m-high slip would
probably continue to move for some months.
"But the good news is that the side of the slip is starting
to stabilise. Things are getting better," Mr Connors said.
Currently, though, the slip site was too dangerous for
workers to be on.
"I hope that within three or four weeks that will change and
that we can get people up there."
Mr Connors said by April of next year it was expected the
slip would have been cleared of all large boulders.
"Hopefully, it will have settled enough to allow long-term
protection works to be installed. This is likely to include
debris fencing and benching."
Enterprise Hokitika chairwoman Jenny Keogan said the slip
could not have come at a worse time for tourism operators.
"This is the most serious situation I have come across in all
my years in tourism. These are our biggest months coming up,
livelihoods depend on this," Ms Keogan said.
The community and NZTA needed to work together to help keep
tourists coming to the West Coast, she said.
"This is dire straits for us. Something has to be done to
reassure tourists to keep coming here."
Tourism West Coast chief executive Jim Little backed up those
comments, saying that the biggest frustration was the lack of
"We totally understand the difficulties but there are a lot
of tourism operators who are suffering massive
cancellations," Mr Little said.
Tour buses were beginning to pull out of coming to the West
"There are some tourism operators that are even saying that
they will have to close the doors and walk away because of
this," Mr Little said.
Mr Connors said NZTA would be working on its communications
with stakeholders and would also look at opening the road
during certain periods of the day.
"We have looked at having the road open at certain times, say
from 11am until 3pm, but we don't know if that will work for
He said while they would investigate the "road opening
window", he warned that it could not be guaranteed.
"Mother nature has not been particularly kind to us. We have
10 seconds to clear the road if a boulder starts moving.
Safety comes first," Mr Connors said.
NZTA southern regional director Jim Harlan said they were
still trying to come to grips with the slip.
"We don't have any fundamental answers as we are still trying
to understand the situation at Haast itself. But rest assured
that we are doing everything we can to get this road
open. We understand the importance of it."
The highway between the Haast Pass and the Gates of Haast
continues to be closed at night, from 6pm to 8am, because of
The highway has reopened to single lane traffic, but is
subject to immediate closure depending on rainfall intensity
and falling debris.
Last month a Canadian couple were killed when their campervan
was swept into the flooded Haast River by a nearby, smaller
landslip during a storm.
The body of Joanna Lam was found, but that of her boyfriend
Connor Hayes is still missing.
- Rebekah Fraser of the Hokitika Guardian