Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron says NZTA, which is responsible for State Highway 4, has confirmed it is committed to fixing the Parapara Rd as soon as possible.

The road between Whanganui and Raetihi has been closed for a week following an underslip resulting in an entire hill face slipping away.

On Monday NZTA announced that access to the damaged road has been closed to all and entry to the site will remain that way until the slip stops moving.

Geotechnical engineers have been assessing the site remotely using drones to determine the severity of the slip and to what extent the surrounding land has been affected.

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Cameron said until this work is completed, major stakeholders will not have answers to questions surrounding the extent of damage, timeframes for closure and more.

"Unfortunately what we can be confident of is that it will not be a quick fix. The magnitude and geology of the slip will probably mean that reinstating the highway will see it needing to take a different route, circumventing the unstable hillside.

"Council recognises that this is incredibly disruptive to our communities and businesses, so are naturally very happy with NZTA's commitment to fix State Highway 4 as soon as possible given its economic and social importance to Ruapehu and the region."

Ruapehu District Council (RDC) has invited NZTA officials to the region after completion of the geotechnical investigation to discuss their findings with affected businesses and farmers.

Cameron said the RDC land transport manager checked the Whangaehu Valley Rd/Fields Track and Raetihi-Pipiriki Rd/Whanganui River Rd detours last weekend.

"We are fortunate in that recent pavement renewal on Whangaehu Valley Rd/Fields Track has made most all of this road reasonably robust," Cameron said.

Geotechnical engineers are assessing the road remotely using drones and NZTA have advised Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron that they are committed to fixing it as soon as possible. Photo / Mark Brimblecombe
Geotechnical engineers are assessing the road remotely using drones and NZTA have advised Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron that they are committed to fixing it as soon as possible. Photo / Mark Brimblecombe

"Council will be bringing forward the planned maintenance work on the sections still to be upgraded along with increasing patrols to monitor how the detour routes are holding up and taking preventative maintenance as needed."

Cameron said that NZTA have also confirmed they will continue with planned upgrade work to fix other dropouts on SH4 this summer.

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Whanganui MP Harete Hipango said that NZTA and the Government must look at the big picture and consider results of the geotechnical investigation before going ahead with any planned minor projects.

[This includes] installation of signs, barriers and strips. It is time this Government invests in infrastructure and in our regions," Hipango said.

"Immediate remedial work will be the priority, however, a long-term plan must be made to address the bigger problems and the constant risks State Highway 4 users face."

Hipango has been on bereavement leave overseas, but plans on visiting the site when she returns and will be seeking meetings with NZTA to establish a coordinated approach to repairing the slip.

Hipango says approximately 1000 vehicles travel the Parapara Rd daily, 10 per cent of which are heavy vehicles.

"When State Highway 4 is closed, hours are added to journeys. Freight companies, tourism operators and the local visitor economy suffers," Hipango said.

"NZTA must make State Highway 4 a priority. This is an issue that can no longer be ignored."

NZTA transport safety manager journey optimisation Lance Kennedy says the safety of the public and the workers is paramount.

Parapara Slip

More Drone footage of the slip on the Parapara Rd between Whanganui and Raetihi.

Posted by EnviroMap Ltd on Friday, 4 October 2019

"For health and safety reasons, the site is closed off, with no access permitted until the slip has stopped moving," Kennedy said.

"Once these investigations are complete, it will be clearer what type of repairs will be required and what the approximate timeframe will be for reinstating the road."

People are advised to factor in additional time for journeys through the area as State Highway 4 will remain closed until a suitable solution can be found.

The recommended detour route is via State Highway 1 and State Highway 49, which will add at least one hour to the journey.

Kennedy says finding a safe solution for reinstating the road will be a high priority.

"Given the scale and complexity of this slip, a significant effort will be needed and that will take time," he said.

"We're pleased that the issue was identified early and that the road was closed without incident, which is a testament to our local teams taking appropriate action and following health and safety protocols effectively."

Horizons Regional Council has confirmed that after collecting data at the Mangawhero Ore Ore recording site, the slip has not significantly affected the Mangawhero River.

While debris had slipped into it, the water flow has not been stemmed and Horizons hydrology staff are looking to install a secondary camera to monitor the latest slip zone.