Excavators are set to begin clearing large slips on earthquake-damaged State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced today that excavators have moved on site and physical work will begin next week, almost three months after November's 7.8 magnitude quake.

"This is good news not only for Kaikoura but also the rest of New Zealand as we begin to rebuild the road and rail networks that are critical to supporting our economy, to keeping these communities connected and boosting the prosperity of this region," Bridges said.

Engineers and work crews have been sluicing the slips by helicopter over the last two months, making the sites safe for machinery and workers, as well as doing the planning that is necessary to ensure that rapid progress is made once on-site work begins.


"Throughout this process the team has developed a work programme that will protect the environment and cultural values of the area, while ensuring that we can deliver a more resilient and safer transport network," Bridges said.

"I understand that people have been anxious to see this work get underway, and I'm confident that we will see strong progress in the weeks ahead as crews work both from the north and south to clear the slips and make each site safe for the rebuild to begin."

Equipment has been moved on site at Irongate, about 1km north of Blue Duck Rd and at the slip site 300m north of Ohau Point.

It is expected to take about three weeks to clear the Irongate slip and make it safe to build an access road around the site.

This will then enable the excavator to move north, building access tracks around three other slips to reach Ohau Point.

Construction of these tracks will also open up some limited access for residents at Rakautara, who have been isolated between the slips.

Slip clearance is expected to get underway within the next few weeks at Ohau Point, one of the biggest and most complex of the nine significant slips along this section of State Highway 1.

Helicopter sluicing will continue on the remainder of the large slips, making these safe for clearance work to begin as soon as practical.