Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

On the brink of disaster

The slip in Matua swept tonnes of earth and uprooted trees towards the estuary below. Photo / Alan Gibson
The slip in Matua swept tonnes of earth and uprooted trees towards the estuary below. Photo / Alan Gibson

A Tauranga couple whose clifftop property received a sudden facelift in a dramatic landslip hope more bad weather won't cause further damage.

The Matua home of Ian Watson and Marlis Holmes now sits less than 6m from the edge of a 40m-high sheer cliff which gave way early on Tuesday morning, sending tonnes of earth and uprooted heavy trees towards the estuary below.

The slip, which is also threatening three other homes, is being closely watched by council officers and has been blamed on three weeks of steady rain.

Ms Holmes had expected a small slip when she woke to the sound of land giving away, but "we didn't expect the whole damn thing".

The slip took with it two of the couple's five chickens, whose coop was left hanging over the edge.

"There they were down the bottom looking up at me," she said. "They would have had a hell of a ride."

Ms Holmes and Mr Watson are now waiting to hear from their insurers, the Earthquake Commission and Tauranga City Council engineers, but are still able to live in their home.

Ms Holmes said the soil had been left sodden by bad weather, at a time when trees that had grown tall and heavy were being buffeted by heavy southwesterly winds.

"The rain was consistent for such a long time and the ground just didn't have time to dry out."

Despite its size, the slip had eaten away little of their section, she said.

"It looks okay but if we get another three months of rain, there's a risk in the future that more erosion will continue."

The Tauranga City Council's manager of city development, Paul Baunton, said the landslide was a typical erosion type of slip. "It looks dramatic because of its height but the depth of it is not that large - probably no more than a metre."

He said he had been called to a slip involving one of the other houses two weeks ago. Council officers would now be monitoring the site several times a week.

- Additional reporting: Bay of Plenty Times

- NZ Herald

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