The car-sized rock sounded like a rumbling train as it hurtled free from its spot in the cliff near the Bluff Hill lookout and down towards Napier's Breakwater Rd.

Seconds earlier abseiling specialists had prized it out of the cliff where it was precariously perched on Tuesday afternoon.

Stationed below the cliffs were six shipping containers, their purpose to stop a rock just like it.

The rock bounced. It veered closer to a wire fence that would likely have been no match for its speed.

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In the end it just hit the furthest right of the containers, bringing it to a satisfying halt.

Abseilers undertaking the controlled removal of a rock. Photo / Warren Buckland
Abseilers undertaking the controlled removal of a rock. Photo / Warren Buckland
Dust coming down with one large rock. Photo / Warren Buckland
Dust coming down with one large rock. Photo / Warren Buckland
Containers on Breakwater Road ready to stop any rocks and debris. Photo / Warren Buckland
Containers on Breakwater Road ready to stop any rocks and debris. Photo / Warren Buckland
Breakwater Road was closed to traffic for the duration of the work. Photo / Warren Buckland
Breakwater Road was closed to traffic for the duration of the work. Photo / Warren Buckland
A car-sized boulder removed from the cliff face on Bluff Hill. Photo / Warren Buckland
A car-sized boulder removed from the cliff face on Bluff Hill. Photo / Warren Buckland

The rock was one of several dangerous ones on the Bluff Hill cliff edge removed in work earlier this week, in work that forced Napier City Council to close off Breakwater Rd to cars and pedestrians.

A spokesperson for Napier City Council said one on Monday was about the size of a small car, but broke up on the way down the bluff.

"On Tuesday one large rock was investigated but determined to be safe, but some higher risk rocks were identified and removed.

"Some smaller rocks were removed from the cliff face and one large rock was removed from the top of the bluff near the Bluff Hill Domain Lookout.

"This was again around the size of a small car but remained intact as it fell."

One eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said the rock shook the Napier earth as it landed, and it took the dust cloud several minutes to clear.

He said he was concerned the rock only just hit the shipping container, as it had looked like it would break down the fence.

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A council spokesperson said it had tried to manage risks of the falling rocks as far as practical.

"The shipping containers were placed covering the expected impact area, which was appropriate evidenced by the fact that the rock hit one of them."

Even if it had missed the container, there would not have been significant danger or damage.

"The section of the road below the area of work was closed to traffic and pedestrians and an area of the Port behind and beyond the containers was kept clear of any personnel or machinery."