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Hanging by a thread after huge landslide

Several landslides have been reported around the region since heavy rain hit Gisborne earlier this month including a massive slip at Beach Loop, south of Whareongaonga.

The slip was first reported by a local resident, who posted a couple of satellite images on Facebook.

“Gisborne District Council is interested in the Whareongaonga landslide because of what it can tell us about the risk to key infrastructural assets that could adversely affect the community,” council chief scientist Dr Murry Cave said.

Several people since then have visited the landslide site at Beach Loop — about 30 kilometres south of Gisborne — and posted pictures of the damage.

Some photos show a part of the railway line almost hanging by a thread.

Dr Cave said the council recognised the community interest in the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line.

The railway line, which belongs to KiwiRail, was mothballed after it was badly damaged by a storm in March 2012.

There has been much debate about repairing or rebuilding the line.

KiwiRail boss Greg Miller visited Gisborne last year and found much interest from businesses and local iwi in re-establishing the rail line.

Lower North Island KiwiRail general manager Paul Ashton, however, said the cost of repairing and maintaining it far exceeded its commercial value at the time.

Jody Toroa, of local hapu Ngati Rangiwaho, said Rangiwaho Marae was working in collaboration with the council to access the Beach Loop landslide damage on a cultural aspect.

A cultural specialist visited the site a few kilometres south of the marae and recorded footage of the “remains”.

The state of the rail line was one of culturally significant concern, Ms Toroa said.

“We are saying strongly to KiwiRail . . . why have they done nothing to maintain it and neglected it completely?

“When serious event like this happens, everything gets destabilised.”

Dr Cave said from an environmental perspective, the landslide was “likely” considered to be a natural event.

The council was waiting for a “better” satellite image to become available.

A new aerial imagery programme would provide high resolution images of the area, allowing for a more indepth and accurate assessment of its scale and impact.

“It involves a plane flying over at altitude and taking a large number of photographs, which are then stuck together,” he said.

Dr Cave said the council would work with GNS/Geonet to determine such impacts, utilising the mapping data.

“A key point to consider is that the landslide, while large-scale and dramatic, does not pose a direct threat to the Tairāwhiti community,” he said.

Ms Toroa said the impact on wahi tapu (sacred sites) was of concern to the local marae, hapu and iwi.

“We have lost traditional pa sites and numerous wahi tapu kumara pits — the areas where our ancestors lived — which were archaeologically and culturally very significant as we are mana whenua, mana moana,” she said.

With a significant amount of land going into the sea, Ms Toroa said it was also a loss of a traditional fishing ground.

“So this is very heavy on our hearts on what has happened.”

Dr Cave said the council was still assessing the many urban and rural landslides that occurred during the November 3-5 event including those at Kaiaua, Anaura Bay.

“We live in a region that is subject to dynamic weather events which may be increasing in frequency, if not intensity, due to climate change,” he said.

The young and relatively weak rock structure of the region made Tairāwhiti especially vulnerable when extreme weather hits.

“The council is aware of the implications of such issues and is focused on obtaining a better understanding of them and their impacts.”

The landscape at Beach Loop south of Gisborne changed dramatically after a landslide during the rain event that caused widespread damage in the region earlier this month. This picture supplied to The Herald shows the massive amount of land that slipped into the ocean, changing the coastline significantly. What was ocean before is now a 'bulge' of land jutting out to sea. The picture shows part of the mothballed Gisborne to Wairoa rail line hanging by a thread. Gisborne District Council chief scientist Dr Murry Cave says the council is still assessing the many urban and rural landslides that occurred during the November 3-5 event. Pictures supplied
ONGOING ASSESSMENTS: Dr Murry Cave says the council is still assessing the many urban and rural landslides that occurred during the November 3-5 event.
Sliding away: The rail line at Beach Loop hangs precariously after a landslide during the rain event earlier this month. A huge amount of land went into the ocean below. The damage is being assessed by Gisborne District Council.

  1. Richard says:

    KiwiRail will rejoice at seeing that photography. It is exactly what they have been waiting for.Extra damage and more costs = yet more excuses not to reinstate the rail line to Gisborne.

    1. Ken Ovenden says:

      Hi Richard, that is only what can be seen, what about the underlying structure of the whole line? Now hire yourself a helicopter and assess the line yourself, then come back and report. Thanks.

      1. Michael Sunderland, Brisbane says:

        Your thoughts certainly interest the writer
        How’s your brother Graeme?

  2. Vickie Reid says:

    The original cost to repair the rail line was about $4 million – the powers that be decided to spend that money on “better roading”. Given that per kilometre cost of about $1 million, this was a costly mistake. Now our roads are no better, and we lost a valuable asset for rail freight and a very picturesque journey for passengers. Very limited vision.

    1. Horse says:

      Lol $4M. That won’t even cover remediation of this single slip (if it can be fixed at all). Fixing the whole mothballed section would easily be $100M. Worth it for a couple of trains per week?