The danger of falling rocks and debris landing on a school bus full of children has seen an urgent decision made to realign a dangerous stretch of a popular Horowhenua road.

Bus loads of school children, recreational swimmers and river residents that used Gladstone Rd were at constant risk of falling debris, it was heard at Horowhenua District Council meeting this week.

Council were acting on expert advice that showed the likelihood of further slips occurring on a road that was prone to large rockfalls similar to one that cut off dozens of houses for weeks in January 2017.

The 2017 slip resulted in huge quantities of rocks and debris blocking the road and falling into the stream below. It was initially cleared, but dangerous debris continued to fall weeks after.


Nervous river residents took their concerns to the meeting this week and commended council on its decision.

Large rocks continue to fall down onto Gladstone Road, and the only protection for passing cars is a small block wall.
Large rocks continue to fall down onto Gladstone Road, and the only protection for passing cars is a small block wall.

John Oatham had lived up the river for many years and was cut off during recent slips. A temporary alternate route provided at the time was dangerous and unstable as an alternative, he said.

Mr Oatham said a recent emergency incident where a baby was badly burnt requiring urgent treatment highlighted the urgency for road upgrade plans.

"Fortunately at that time the road was open so emergency services had access," he said.

Stephanie Cook was a former Wellington City councillor who moved "up the river" five years ago as she wanted to escape city life and had "found a slice of paradise".

Ms Cook told council the likelihood of further slips made her nervous and she feared for other people regularly using the road.

She said cyclists, runners, tradesman and school buses regularly used the road and "bless their hearts - boy racers".

HDC acting group manager infrastructure services Rob Green said they were investigating the realignment of more than a kilometre of Gladstone Rd on the opposite side of the Omahu Stream.

The new section of road would include two single-lane bridges and would eliminate the risk of landslides.

"We need to do this because geotechnical advice shows there are likely to be further landslips on Gladstone Rd and there are few options for treating the land itself to reduce the risk," he said.

"The slips cause significant inconvenience to those who need access along Gladstone Rd, as well as creating potential safety risks. There are a number of homes up there and several forestry plantations, as well as the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre, which is visited by about 100 children per week."

He said since the 2017 slip maintenance had cost HDC an estimated $220,000. Realigning the road would avoid future costs associated with further slips.

At the meeting councillors voted unanimously to purchase of 29.5 hectares required for the realignment.

Cost estimates would be confirmed during a due diligence process although HDC's burden could be as low as 20 percent as the project qualified for assistance from a NZ Transport Authority (NZTA) fund.

Councillor Christine Mitchell said the situation required a long term solution as "it brings a lot of people into our district".

The decision gave council now had the green light to enter negotiations with land owners for "the purchase of land being reached and at an agreeable price".