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SH25A – it’s hurting everyone

By Pauline Stewart.

Sometimes there is physical pain in people over this broken highway, SH 25A. Questions which come to us and letters are full of angst and or anxiety.

We have printed by popular request part of an article, titled, The Waka is Sinking! This is written by Andy Loader, Co-Chair of Primary Land Users Group (P.L.U.G.)

In addition, we prepared eight questions for Waka Kotahi from whom we have received prompt co-operation. With the short time frame, they prepared some specific material in answer to three of our questions and some general responses with the commitment to respond to the more detailed questions in the near future.

 

The Waka Is Sinking – excerpt (Rural News 14 April 2023)

From Andy Loader, Co-Chair of P.L.U.G ( Primary Land Users Group).

One of New Zealand’s largest earthmoving contractors, which has completed many contracts both nationally and internationally, approached Waka Kotahi soon after the slip occurred, with a credible, viable and detailed proposal to put in a temporary access round the slip area and at the same time they would form a working platform to allow remedial works on the slip area to begin from that platform.

The contractor had commitments for; the entire infrastructure needed to complete this temporary access road to be made available, aggregate resources supply, cartage both from and to the site and the staff with many years of practical experience to allow them to complete this job.

The Contractor has assured me that their proposal was easily do-able, and they were not measuring their completion time in months or next year but were talking about having a temporary road open in three to four weeks!!!

So why have we not heard anything of this proposal?

Has Waka Kotahi looked at it and rejected it out of hand? And if this is the case, on what basis have they made this judgment?

It’s time Waka Kotahi came out and told us why they have rejected this proposal and who was responsible for making that decision.

In my opinion, these contractors would have more knowledge of the practicalities of large earthmoving jobs than Waka Kotahi and their history of successful completions both nationally and internationally over many years, backs up this claim.”

 

Waka Kotahi at the road face.

The response below can be attributed to Jason Harrison, Acting Regional Manager of Infrastructure Delivery Bay of Plenty and Waikato for Waka Kotahi. Following the devastating impacts of multiple storm events this year, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is focused on restoring vital access to the Coromandel as soon as possible. Beyond the initial emergency response, our focus also includes long-term solutions so that State Highway 25 and SH25A remain resilient. We acknowledge that Coromandel residents, businesses and visitors are very concerned about how long it will take to rebuild SH25A. While SH25A is closed, Waka Kotahi is acutely aware of the sacrifice’s locals, businesses and communities are having to make. We have a dedicated team of project managers and consulting engineers focused on delivering a robust solution that can be built as quickly as possible. This team is actively working through three options for a long-term solution. Each one is being investigated in parallel so we can go as quickly as possible, and readily move to the preferred option’s detailed design and construction. The right option can only be confirmed when the risks, costs, form and time required to build each option have been assessed. The critical task of geotechnical investigations was completed earlier in April and we are now analysing the information to identify the optimum solution that enables the route to be open as soon as possible.

Option 1 – Bypass The geotechnical information gathered showed a northern bypass option, shifting the road well away from the slip face, would need substantial digging out and removing around 300 to 400,000m3 of soft soils off site before any work on building a road could start. A bypass closer to the slip face is another option. It would bring in a few more corners into the new road alignment and involve rebuilding an embankment with a mixture of cut into the banks above and filling over the slip below with rock fill. The old slip material – both new and historic layers – would also have to be removed and doing this task in winter would have to be factored into the programme. The design, factors of safety of the stability of the slopes above, and safety and ecological impact of the proposed road re-alignment are currently being assessed. Option 2 – Bridge At this stage, the information and advice gathered so far is showing that a steel bridge (rather than a bridge with concrete beams) could be the fastest to construct. We are looking for time saving options such as precast deck elements and long beams that are not too heavy to reduce the number of time-consuming piles to be installed. The smaller the crane we need to lift the beams the better; as building a stable crane platform on weak soil, and forming an access to them, will be time consuming. Option 3 – Retaining wall Development of the retaining wall option to re-form the road embankment is well underway in parallel. The soils were tested on Monday 17 April 2023 to better understand the ground conditions – this will be key in deciding if rebuilding embankments are viable options or not. All three options have varying challenges which are being weighed up, and Waka Kotahi is committed to delivering a solution as quickly as possible. Expediting delivery will be given a high weighting for the option selection. The options assessment will be completed, and a preferred option confirmed in May. (Minister Wood did promise when visiting Thames, that decision day was at the beginning of May The current information from Waka Kotahi, does not say that. Now it is in the month of May.) Regarding a temporary bypass:

The steep topography in this location – both above and in the slip area – requires considerable earthworks and retaining work to form traversable slopes for regular vehicles. It is not possible to do a ‘“quick fix”. The access tracks that have been formed are very steep and only suitable for vehicles with tracks. Because the ground conditions are so poor even the tracked geotechnical drilling equipment requires a digger to assist them when they are shifting location, particularly if rain has fallen recently and softened the surfaces further.

 

Temporary staging can be built across the face of the slip, however this too is not a quick fix as it would take several months with a considerable amount of piling work required to support it. More importantly it is very likely to be in the way of construction of the permanent solution., but we’re committed to reconnecting Coromandel communities and working through options for a long-term solution.

We are focused on getting this highway open as quickly as possible, while prioritising the safety of our crew and the community.

No outside consultation.

Q: Has Waka Kotahi consulted inside NZ or outside of NZ and in what way? it would be unfortunate to not seek greater avenues of expertise, seeing we have so many road problems. There are geologically challenged countries who build well after major disasters, and it appears to be so much more quickly.

Response from Waka Kotahi: Waka Kotahi has not sought any international assistance to help us address the challenge of reinstating SH25A. We have enough expertise locally, with a New Zealand team comprising of local engineers, including local geotechs and local contractors.

Caption: Kopu-Hikaui March 2023.

 |  The Informer  | 
By Pauline Stewart.

Sometimes there is physical pain in people over this broken highway, SH 25A. Questions which come to us and letters are full of angst and or anxiety.

We have printed by popular request part of an article, titled, The Waka is Sinking! This is written by Andy Loader, Co-Chair of Primary Land Users Group (P.L.U.G.)

In addition, we prepared eight questions for Waka Kotahi from whom we have received prompt co-operation. With the short time frame, they prepared some specific material in answer to three of our questions and some general responses with the commitment to respond to the more detailed questions in the near future.

 

The Waka Is Sinking – excerpt (Rural News 14 April 2023)

From Andy Loader, Co-Chair of P.L.U.G ( Primary Land Users Group).

One of New Zealand’s largest earthmoving contractors, which has completed many contracts both nationally and internationally, approached Waka Kotahi soon after the slip occurred, with a credible, viable and detailed proposal to put in a temporary access round the slip area and at the same time they would form a working platform to allow remedial works on the slip area to begin from that platform.

The contractor had commitments for; the entire infrastructure needed to complete this temporary access road to be made available, aggregate resources supply, cartage both from and to the site and the staff with many years of practical experience to allow them to complete this job.

The Contractor has assured me that their proposal was easily do-able, and they were not measuring their completion time in months or next year but were talking about having a temporary road open in three to four weeks!!!

So why have we not heard anything of this proposal?

Has Waka Kotahi looked at it and rejected it out of hand? And if this is the case, on what basis have they made this judgment?

It’s time Waka Kotahi came out and told us why they have rejected this proposal and who was responsible for making that decision.

In my opinion, these contractors would have more knowledge of the practicalities of large earthmoving jobs than Waka Kotahi and their history of successful completions both nationally and internationally over many years, backs up this claim.”

 

Waka Kotahi at the road face.

The response below can be attributed to Jason Harrison, Acting Regional Manager of Infrastructure Delivery Bay of Plenty and Waikato for Waka Kotahi. Following the devastating impacts of multiple storm events this year, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is focused on restoring vital access to the Coromandel as soon as possible. Beyond the initial emergency response, our focus also includes long-term solutions so that State Highway 25 and SH25A remain resilient. We acknowledge that Coromandel residents, businesses and visitors are very concerned about how long it will take to rebuild SH25A. While SH25A is closed, Waka Kotahi is acutely aware of the sacrifice’s locals, businesses and communities are having to make. We have a dedicated team of project managers and consulting engineers focused on delivering a robust solution that can be built as quickly as possible. This team is actively working through three options for a long-term solution. Each one is being investigated in parallel so we can go as quickly as possible, and readily move to the preferred option’s detailed design and construction. The right option can only be confirmed when the risks, costs, form and time required to build each option have been assessed. The critical task of geotechnical investigations was completed earlier in April and we are now analysing the information to identify the optimum solution that enables the route to be open as soon as possible.

Option 1 – Bypass The geotechnical information gathered showed a northern bypass option, shifting the road well away from the slip face, would need substantial digging out and removing around 300 to 400,000m3 of soft soils off site before any work on building a road could start. A bypass closer to the slip face is another option. It would bring in a few more corners into the new road alignment and involve rebuilding an embankment with a mixture of cut into the banks above and filling over the slip below with rock fill. The old slip material – both new and historic layers – would also have to be removed and doing this task in winter would have to be factored into the programme. The design, factors of safety of the stability of the slopes above, and safety and ecological impact of the proposed road re-alignment are currently being assessed. Option 2 – Bridge At this stage, the information and advice gathered so far is showing that a steel bridge (rather than a bridge with concrete beams) could be the fastest to construct. We are looking for time saving options such as precast deck elements and long beams that are not too heavy to reduce the number of time-consuming piles to be installed. The smaller the crane we need to lift the beams the better; as building a stable crane platform on weak soil, and forming an access to them, will be time consuming. Option 3 – Retaining wall Development of the retaining wall option to re-form the road embankment is well underway in parallel. The soils were tested on Monday 17 April 2023 to better understand the ground conditions – this will be key in deciding if rebuilding embankments are viable options or not. All three options have varying challenges which are being weighed up, and Waka Kotahi is committed to delivering a solution as quickly as possible. Expediting delivery will be given a high weighting for the option selection. The options assessment will be completed, and a preferred option confirmed in May. (Minister Wood did promise when visiting Thames, that decision day was at the beginning of May The current information from Waka Kotahi, does not say that. Now it is in the month of May.) Regarding a temporary bypass:

The steep topography in this location – both above and in the slip area – requires considerable earthworks and retaining work to form traversable slopes for regular vehicles. It is not possible to do a ‘“quick fix”. The access tracks that have been formed are very steep and only suitable for vehicles with tracks. Because the ground conditions are so poor even the tracked geotechnical drilling equipment requires a digger to assist them when they are shifting location, particularly if rain has fallen recently and softened the surfaces further.

 

Temporary staging can be built across the face of the slip, however this too is not a quick fix as it would take several months with a considerable amount of piling work required to support it. More importantly it is very likely to be in the way of construction of the permanent solution., but we’re committed to reconnecting Coromandel communities and working through options for a long-term solution.

We are focused on getting this highway open as quickly as possible, while prioritising the safety of our crew and the community.

No outside consultation.

Q: Has Waka Kotahi consulted inside NZ or outside of NZ and in what way? it would be unfortunate to not seek greater avenues of expertise, seeing we have so many road problems. There are geologically challenged countries who build well after major disasters, and it appears to be so much more quickly.

Response from Waka Kotahi: Waka Kotahi has not sought any international assistance to help us address the challenge of reinstating SH25A. We have enough expertise locally, with a New Zealand team comprising of local engineers, including local geotechs and local contractors.

Caption: Kopu-Hikaui March 2023.