Contractors are about to start using dynamite in a bid to move thousands of tonnes of loose soil still threatening to come down on State Highway 11 near Kawakawa.

A huge slip has closed the highway at Lemon's Hill since February 13, forcing motorists travelling between Opua and Kawakawa to take the long way around via Pakaraka and Puketona.

NZ Transport Agency system manager Steve Mutton said there was still a significant amount of earth and rock sitting above the roadway, which would now be brought down the face of the slip using explosives.

Blasting was due to start this week and would help get the road open as quickly as possible.


He expected traffic would be allowed through in two to three weeks.

Aerial view of the slip which has closed State Highway 11 at Lemon's Hill since February 13. Photo / NZTA
Aerial view of the slip which has closed State Highway 11 at Lemon's Hill since February 13. Photo / NZTA

"Our crews are working as fast as safely possible given the complexity of the slip, the difficult access and the weather interruptions," he said.

"We're conscious of the importance of the link to the Bay of Islands for locals and tourists and we're working to reopen the road as soon as we can."

Meanwhile, the slip has proved an unexpected boon for Te Hononga, the cultural and tourism hub planned on the Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park behind the town's famous toilets.

Last month the project received the final $2.3 million needed from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.

Now site works are getting underway months earlier than planned, thanks to what project coordinator Lau'rell Pratt called a win-win solution for the Kawakawa community.

More than 3000cu m of soil cleared from the Lemon's Hill slip will be trucked in to Kawakawa for the project's earthworks, saving the project money and speeding up the re-opening of SH11.

Half the carpark behind the Hundertwasser toilets and the council service centre has been fenced off to allow the fill to be brought in.


Alternative parking is available behind Hammer Hardware, next to the Hunter Star Tavern and at the corner of SH1 and SH11 in Johnson Park.

Te Hononga ("the joining of cultures") will incorporate a visitors' centre, public library, council service centre, gallery, art workshop, toilets and parking for cars and buses.