Latest rock fall at Cathedral Cove raises alarm

Another rock fall in Coromandel's Cathedral Cove arch has forced the Department of Conservation (DOC) to consider blocking access to the iconic tourist spot.

Last week, staff found another large section of rock had dropped from the arch ceiling. The archway provides tidal access from Cathedral Cove to adjacent Mares Leg Cove and is one the most photographed scenes in New Zealand.

In October 2009, two tonnes of rock fell from the arch ceiling, narrowly missing a tourist, and the arch was officially closed in April last year after a geotechnical report confirmed cracks in the ceiling, raising fears there could be further rock falls.

More rock fell in January 2011 and the department upgraded its barriers and warnings but visitors continued to ignore them and walk through. Barriers and signs are regularly vandalised.

DOC Hauraki area manager Melissa King-Howell said the instability of the ceiling was a real worry, and the latest rock falls had led the department to rethink what they should do about it.

One option was to close the track to Cathedral Cove but its importance to the tourism industry had to be taken into account, she said.

"Another option is to keep the status quo but I'm a bit nervous to say that would be adequate.

"People are ignoring the signs and continuing to enter the arch. This latest rock fall shows that the danger is very real and someone will get injured if they continue to put themselves at risk."

About 200,000 people visit the site each year and it is a popular wedding venue.




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