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We live in the Shaky Isles, much of which is mountainous – the combination of both is what causes so many slips

Editorial – April / May’18

Slip sliding away … what started off as a wonderful summer deteriorated rapidly, with three tropical cyclones between late January and early March causing havoc around the country for our roading crews.

Tropical cyclones Fehi, Gita and Hola all made landfall in New Zealand, bringing torrential rain and driving winds. Flooding in Dunedin and Buller caused states of emergency to be declared in the aftermath of Fehi, and Gita brought even more destruction, with states of emergency declared in Taranaki, Nelson/Tasman, Christchurch city and much of the South Island’s West Coast.

A direct result of the flooding was a swathe of warnings from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), with roads closed up and down the country due to slips and washouts. Parts of the South Island still in recovery mode following the Kaikoura quake of November 2016 were trashed again by Mother Nature.

Sometimes I wonder about the good folks at the NZTA and whether they get sick to death of clearing slips and debris, or whether they love it when another calamity happens and it makes them all scratch their heads to come up with a new innovative solution.

The buzzword it seems is resilience – defined by the NZTA as preserving and restoring access to the roading network despite unexpected disruptive events: that our roads can absorb and withstand the disruption, that there are planned alternative routes when roads are closed, and that they are reopened as soon as possible. In practical terms, this means the state highway network must be able to perform effectively in a crisis, adapt to changing conditions and recover quickly from disturbances.

Interviewed by Iain MacIntyre for a story in this edition of NZCN on the rebuild of Takaka Hill in the Tasman District, NZTA system manager Frank Porter says that, despite the devastation wrought by Cyclone Gita, his team remained stoic, and he is proud of their capability to continually rise to the challenge. “We have robust processes to manage these events. Each site presents its unique challenges,” he says.

We seem to have made enormous strides in engineering our buildings to make them capable of withstanding a seismic event, allowing the building to rock and sway but return to the upright relatively unscathed. Perhaps one day someone will invent a roading pavement that will flex and bend in a similar manner.

Land slips will always be a challenge for our roading crews. We live in the Shaky Isles, much of which is mountainous; the combination of both is what causes so many slips. If we want a First World road system in a country prone to land slips, we have to pay the price – and count our blessings for the dedicated teams at the NZTA and our hard-working roading contractors.

Until next time …
Lynne Richardson, editor



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