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The New Zealand Transport Agency has offered its condolences to the family and friends of an elderly New Plymouth woman who was killed when roadside rocks fell onto the car she was in.

The 76-year-old woman's sister, who was driving, was suffered only minor injuries when large rocks peeled off from the sheer limestone cliff face and tumbled down on to the car, crushing the passenger side.

The accident happened on State Highway 3 near Waitomo about 10.30am as the women travelled north between Mahoenui and Piopio.


The 76-year-old passenger died at the scene. Her sister was taken to Te Kuiti with minor injuries.

The NZTA's acting state highway manager for Waikato, Michelle Te Wharau, said: ``Today's events are a terrible tragedy, and our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the victim,''

She said SH3 was monitored regularly for rock fall activity because the topography and the geological landscape made it prone to instability.

The agency had geotechnical assessors at the site to assess the state of the rockface and it aimed to reopen the road to a single lane this weekend.

In the meantime it would remain closed until it was confident the cliff face had been stabilised and detours were in place.

The NZTA supported recommendations from police for drivers to avoid unnecessary travel between New Plymouth and Te Kuiti until the section of road fully reopened.