Monday 7 May 2012: Job description: Must have a head for heights
The cliff face along Rocks Road between Tahunanui and Nelson resembles a rock-climbing group's annual outing at the moment, as stabilisation work is carried out by teams of abseiling engineers and workmen.
Rocks Road, which forms part of State Highway 6 close to Port Nelson, was closed for a while after the torrential rain and devastating floods that affected the city and the region in general the week before Christmas. (We weren't here then, but that's what triggered the problem with our storm-water drains here at the house). Loosened rocks and soil slid down onto the road, damaging properties and blocking the highway itself and causing a major traffic headache in and around the city.
The work that's currently underway will hopefully make the cliff face safer and more resilient to weather damage, according to the NZ Transport Agency. Apparently this involves drilling 125 rock bolts into the cliff face and fixing them in place and overall, approximately one kilometre of high strength steel rods will be used to stabilise the cliff. There are various platforms, cherry-pickers and mobile cranes in evidence with crews working from them, in addition to the abseilers in action removing loose material from the face.
"This is very precise, physically difficult work that will involve our crews drilling into the slope to install these rods, which will collectively hold the cliff-face together," according to a spokesman for NZTA. Well, yes.... it looks physically difficult, I must say.
The history of Rocks Road is very interesting and the phenomenon of rocks falling onto it is nothing new. In fact, one week after the road's official opening by Prime Minister Richard Seddon on 3rd February 1899, the occupants of a passing trap were shaken but luckily unharmed when a large rock fell on it as they made their way from Richmond to the Port. The engineer in charge was instructed to have loose rock removed from the cliff-face immediately.
I don't know if any photographic record of the removal exists, but one thing is sure - I bet the equipment used was a lot more rudimentary than that being employed in 2012! My concentration on the road as I drive along the (significantly narrower than usual) Rocks Rd these days is constantly challenged by the temptation to crane upwards looking at these guys, so today I decided to stop and blip them. Luckily I had my zoom lens in the car......