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Waka Kotahi has two geotech and two earthworks' teams working "flat out" at the Kōpū-Hikuai site. File Photo: SUPPLIED/NZTA

Long recovery for SH25

By Rob Campbell

What a year it’s been already for the Coromandel road network.
Our priority is to stabilise as many slips as fast are we can, to make sure that we reduce the chance of access being affected further. At the same time, we are working hard to design permanent solutions and to have teams of people ready to start constructing these, drawing from a wide range of local and national suppliers with the right skills and experience.

The recovery phase will be long, it might take two years to complete all the work in front of us, with the State Highway 25A Kōpū-Hikuai repair estimated to take nine months to a year.
In January and February alone – there were more than 200 slip events on Coromandel and East Waikato highways. More than 50 of these are considered “significant slips”, which means they’re over two truckloads of materials in size. Of these 200, the chasm at the summit of Kōpū-Hikuai is only one. A big one mind you!
There were 361 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors on the ground responding to the sheer enormity of this situation over the first two months of this year. This equates to a whopping 56 thousand worker hours in this region alone, at a cost of around $5 million dollars.
The scale of the permanent repairs this year is significantly higher than previous years, including the 2018 Thames coastal storm event.
Currently, there are around 30 active overslips and 20 active underslips requiring permanent solutions. An underslip is a slip that falls below the road level, like the one between Hikuai and Opoutere, which has caused serious headaches for the community recently.
Up on Kōpū-Hikuai, we’ve currently got two geotech and two earthworks teams working flat out.
The focus is on collecting samples using drill rigs, which bore deep into the earth to get information on what material there is to work with, specifically if there’s rock and where it is.
But while this critical work is ongoing, there’s a lot happening all around the Coromandel.

Rob Campbell.

There is a significant number of culverts to repair and clean up. Heavy rainfall resulted in severe scours and damages to our stormwater system. We are still inspecting the drainage and continuing work on the maintenance and repairs.
We appreciate that it’s extremely frustrating and stressful to have so many roads compromised. There’s uncertainty about when things will be fixed, or whether a slip will worsen or a new one develops – compromising SH25 further. It’s tough economically as well as emotionally and socially.
We want to thank everyone in the community for their patience despite the challenges and for respecting our teams out there. Most of them are locals too and everyone wants to see the Coromandel fully connected again as fast as possible.
– Rob Campbell is the regional manager of maintenance and operations for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency