The lower section of Hillcrest Road, from Seaview Road to Clifton Road, will be closed next week (Monday, 31 May – Friday, 4 June) to manage the safe removal of a large rock overhang.

Earlier this month, Whakatāne District Council engaged specialist engineers GeoVert to investigate and safely remove rock from the escarpment above Hillcrest Road that had been loosened by heavy rainfall.

Council’s Manager Transportation Martin Taylor explains that while undertaking this work, abseilers noted a large outcrop of rock that they recommended Council seek expert geotechnical engineering advice on.

“That advice has been to proactively remove the outcrop, because, while it is currently stable, there is a potential risk that it could become loosened in the event of an earthquake.”

“The GeoVert crew, from Christchurch, will begin preparations on Monday afternoon for the highly technical job of using breakers and airbags to bring down the rock overhang in pieces. We’ll need to close Hillcrest Road (from Clifton Road to Seaview Road) to traffic from the beginning of the day however, to allow our roading team to set up large concrete safety barriers and fencing.”

That section of the road will remain closed, day and night, until the work is complete. It’s estimated that the work could take until Friday, 4 June. The road will be reopened earlier if the work is completed ahead of schedule.

“A VMS (mobile digital signboard) is positioned at the top of Hillcrest Road to warn motorists of the timeframe and location of the closure. We’ve notified Hillcrest residents by letter-box drop and have been using a range of methods to inform the public of the closure and the reasons it is required.

We appreciate that Hillcrest residents will be inconvenienced by this closure, but also recognise the impact on all commuters and the increased congestion that will result at peak times on Mokoroa Gorge Road. We suggest that commuters factor this into planning their travel and consider leaving earlier or delaying their drive to stagger the traffic flow.

In acknowledging the inconvenience this work will cause, we hope that everyone understands the importance of this safety work for all road users. It’s far better to bring down this rock in a controlled manner than deal with the consequences in the event of an earthquake,” Mr Taylor concludes.

Traffic management on Canning Place next week is still being finalised, but it is likely to operate under stop/go restrictions while the rock removal work is being carried out. The vertigraph steps will remain open.