COLUMN: Ensuring long-term resilience key in rebuild
COLUMN: I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas with family and friends and you have had a positive start to 2017.
Throughout the earthquake-affected Kaikoura Electorate, work to rebuild our damaged roads and Kaikoura's marina has not slowed down during the holiday period, and it has been heartening to see the progress that has been made.
A few tourists have been making their way into Kaikoura since the re-opening of State Highway 1 south of the township just before the holiday and while visitor numbers are nothing close to normal levels, their presence has surely been a welcome and important boost for local businesses.
I have been continuing regular visits throughout the Christmas period to the earthquake-affected areas of our electorate, which naturally has meant travelling the recently opened highways.
Last week I met with some of the people working on those roads, including a geotechnical engineer named Romy. She began working on the roads immediately after the November 14 earthquake and since then, has only had a handful of days off.
Romy is by no means the only person involved with the rebuild who has worked through the Christmas and New Year period, including some individuals who continued on Christmas Day, and the commitment shown by people like her needs to be acknowledged.
The work carried out by a large team of people on the roads, as well as on the Kaikoura marina, from the person on the stop/go signs to the engineers and geotechnical experts, has been phenomenal.
SH1 to the north of Kaikoura is also seeing a great deal of activity, but helicopter sluicing of the larger slips has uncovered a number of challenges. For example, the removal of lose material on one particular slip has revealed two very large rocks, bigger than 100 tonnes each, which are precariously overhanging the road.
Had this road been hurriedly re-opened following the earthquake, these rocks – hidden by many tonnes of lose material – would have posed a real and serious hazard.
We may not be as far ahead with this road than if we'd started immediately after the earthquake. However, after I had a good discussion with engineers on site about the larger geotechnical picture, I'm very confident that a cautious approach is more than sensible. I know people are keen to see this road open as soon as possible and make no mistake, we all want to see that happen. But we need to get the design of the new highway right so we are not wasting time building something that proves it cannot be a long-term solution.
This is not about being overly careful: the road is fraught with danger in a lot of places. Careful and proper assessments must be made in addressing issues such as those rocks because at the end of the day, we are talking about people's lives. We must make prudent decisions about what will not only be the fastest, but also the safest way to build this road with long-term resilience in mind.
The Marlborough Express