Clearing the gorge rocks with his hands

Patrol procedures questioned.

Patrol procedures questioned.

Waioeka rocks

A beekeeper driving through the Waioeka Gorge on his early morning commute came across three separate rockfalls he cleaned up himself to reduce the danger.

It was about 6.30 on Sunday morning.

Ferey Ronan wants to know why the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) does not have a patrolling broom truck with two people to go up and down marking slips with cones, and quickly clearing a lane for passage.

“I used rocks and a reflective road marker to make a danger sign because the slip was straight after a sharp corner.

“I put myself at risk, with no head protection and no equipment but my hands and safety shoes, to remove the rocks. Big and small.

“When I started cleaning the third slip at 6.45am, I finally came across a road maintenance crew.”

Mr Ronan said he was not blaming the workers.

“I’m blaming management.

“One of the slips had been driven through quite a bit, so it must have been there for ages.

“We all know this beautiful scenic drive turns into an obstacle course when heavy rain hits it.” Rain is forecast for this district over the next few days.

NZTA Bay of Plenty transport system manager Rob Campbell said they were confident their current process offered the appropriate balance of risk, customer expectations and value for money.

“Proactive sweeps or clearing during heavy rain, or other major weather events, do occur when it has been identified that there is an increased chance of large rockfall or slips. Monitoring and checking also increases, and extra crews and equipment are brought in as appropriate for the size of the anticipated event.”

Mr Campbell said NZTA carried out inspections, rock scaling and site monitoring for high-risk areas.

“Small rockfalls and slips are cleared by broom trucks or crews carrying specialised equipment on their trucks. Broom trucks or crews also do patrols every week day and are on standby 24/7, including the weekends, so we can react quickly. We do have to consider the safety of workers and sometimes the clearing cannot occur until it is safe to do so.”

Mr Campbell said the resiliency of the Waioeka Gorge was being looked at as part of a long-term improvement programme.”

“The nature of New Zealand’s challenging geography means that the risks of rockfalls and other natural events can never be completely eliminated. However, we understand the concern and we recognise the importance of this highway as a key route. Our contractors will continue to closely monitor the highway and remove any material that could be a risk.”

Mr Ronan said it was not the first time he came across rock falls he cleaned up himself.

“Are the workers instructed to fully clean with the tractor/transporter unit one slip at a time while the others are left for cars and working trucks to discover with their tyres and radiators?

“Or maybe I’m just very lucky, and every time I drive through the gorge in heavy rain at night or early morning, which I have no choice over because of work, I’m the first one to discover the slips and clean them.”

The NZTA advises anyone who comes across a slip or debris on the state highway to stay in the car away from the affected area.

“Report it to us in the first instance by calling 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49), so that contractors, who are on call 24/7, can be deployed.”

Mr Campbell said all road users should drive with care and be prepared for unexpected events, especially during or after periods of heavy rain.

A beekeeper driving through the Waioeka Gorge on his early morning commute came across three separate rockfalls he cleaned up himself to reduce the danger.

It was about 6.30 on Sunday morning.

Ferey Ronan wants to know why the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) does not have a patrolling broom truck with two people to go up and down marking slips with cones, and quickly clearing a lane for passage.

“I used rocks and a reflective road marker to make a danger sign because the slip was straight after a sharp corner.

“I put myself at risk, with no head protection and no equipment but my hands and safety shoes, to remove the rocks. Big and small.

“When I started cleaning the third slip at 6.45am, I finally came across a road maintenance crew.”

Mr Ronan said he was not blaming the workers.

“I’m blaming management.

“One of the slips had been driven through quite a bit, so it must have been there for ages.

“We all know this beautiful scenic drive turns into an obstacle course when heavy rain hits it.” Rain is forecast for this district over the next few days.

NZTA Bay of Plenty transport system manager Rob Campbell said they were confident their current process offered the appropriate balance of risk, customer expectations and value for money.

“Proactive sweeps or clearing during heavy rain, or other major weather events, do occur when it has been identified that there is an increased chance of large rockfall or slips. Monitoring and checking also increases, and extra crews and equipment are brought in as appropriate for the size of the anticipated event.”

Mr Campbell said NZTA carried out inspections, rock scaling and site monitoring for high-risk areas.

“Small rockfalls and slips are cleared by broom trucks or crews carrying specialised equipment on their trucks. Broom trucks or crews also do patrols every week day and are on standby 24/7, including the weekends, so we can react quickly. We do have to consider the safety of workers and sometimes the clearing cannot occur until it is safe to do so.”

Mr Campbell said the resiliency of the Waioeka Gorge was being looked at as part of a long-term improvement programme.”

“The nature of New Zealand’s challenging geography means that the risks of rockfalls and other natural events can never be completely eliminated. However, we understand the concern and we recognise the importance of this highway as a key route. Our contractors will continue to closely monitor the highway and remove any material that could be a risk.”

Mr Ronan said it was not the first time he came across rock falls he cleaned up himself.

“Are the workers instructed to fully clean with the tractor/transporter unit one slip at a time while the others are left for cars and working trucks to discover with their tyres and radiators?

“Or maybe I’m just very lucky, and every time I drive through the gorge in heavy rain at night or early morning, which I have no choice over because of work, I’m the first one to discover the slips and clean them.”

The NZTA advises anyone who comes across a slip or debris on the state highway to stay in the car away from the affected area.

“Report it to us in the first instance by calling 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49), so that contractors, who are on call 24/7, can be deployed.”

Mr Campbell said all road users should drive with care and be prepared for unexpected events, especially during or after periods of heavy rain.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Bill Simpson, Qld - 6 months ago
There was something efficient and comforting in the days when the Ministry of Works had their men stationed in the Gorge. With their highly recognisable red Bedfords, the road was covered day and night and in all kinds of weather. She was a far more isolated place then.

Matt - 6 months ago
Value for money? What a joke - the NZTA a few months ago was paying people to sit around and watch a cliff face 24/7 rather than just blasting it down and getting it over with. What a joke.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the school children who have been striking for action on climate change?