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The NZ Transport Agency says following some very productive days of slip-clearing operations, work carting slip material has experienced a minor setback following onsite safety concerns, although the gorge is still marching on towards a mid-year opening.
Mr McGonigal says the six-day burst of 24/7 carting operations had made a sizeable dent in the slip. He says the NZTA has since put the round-the-clock carting of slip material from the Ashhurst end of the slip on hold after movement was detected on the damaged half-bridge at this end.
"We've called a temporary halt to carting operations because we need to be sure the site is safe before we can proceed."
"This is disappointing, but as we well know the slip remains an unpredictable work environment. Our safety record to date on this challenging project is something to be proud of, and we want to continue to look after our crews until the job is finished."
"That said, in the six days we spent carting debris around the clock, we made a lot of headway and carted out a huge amount of dirt. The slip is shrinking by the day."
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA will bolster the damaged section with debris from the slip so that the trucks can continue carting debris away in that direction.
"While we need to clear the slip material before we can really get stuck in and fix the bridges and road, we're making good progress in anticipation of this. As we remove the slip material, we're exposing more sections of the bridge, and we're progressively assessing the damage and sourcing replacement components so that we're ready to get to work straightaway when the coast is clear."
Mr McGonigal says hollow core beams have been ordered to replace the two damaged ones that have been uncovered at the Ashhurst end. These should be installed and the concrete well cured by late May.
Mr McGonigal says crews have made solid progress nonetheless, and the gorge's new ecosystem up above is starting to spread.
"The gorge is greening up nicely, and we've hydroseeded all the bench edges and that telltale green tinge is now flourishing all the way down the slip."
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA are grateful to the public for their ongoing perseverance, and urges people to drive carefully over the Easter holiday period.