An aerial view of Point Elizabeth from Rapahoe on the west coast. The track along the coast needs $500,000 in repairs.
Several options are being considered to reopen a popular West Coast footbridge, with repairs estimated at $500,000 after the latest landslide.
The 5.5 kilometer Point Elizabeth Walkway, between Cobden’s North Beach and Rapahoe, hugs the coastal cliffs on the flanks of the Twelve Apostles range and is popular with Greymouth locals for walking and mountain biking.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) closed the track at the Cobden end “due to an impassable slide”.
It remains open from the Rapahoe end, although the northern section has also experienced significant slippage in the past 12 months after heavy rains.
* Heaphy Bridge rescue complete but no date for lane reopening
* Great Walks washed away by heavy rain
*Great Walks open to reservations, but huts are capped at 50%
Acting DOC Greymouth regional manager Darrell Haworth told a West Coast Conservation Board meeting that the department had commissioned a geotechnical report with options for stabilizing the slide.
“This is not fantastic news. All three options carry inherent risk,” Haworth said.
The landslide was around 20 meters long but with a potentially much larger area of risk.
The DOC was now convening a panel to assess the next course of action before contracting out the work, which is estimated to cost $500,000.
Point Elizabeth is one of many West Coast DOC tracks compromised after heavy rains over the past few months.
West South Island manager Mark Davies said the Heaphy Track Great Walk had been closed since February due to a “major loss of infrastructure” when bridges were wiped out by flooding.
That and other track closures earlier in the year, including the Paparoa Track Great Walk and the Old Ghost Road, meant the department was aware of the “reputational risk” to the West Coast as a tourist destination.
“It was pretty uncomfortable,” Davies said.
On the Heaphy Trail, three bridges were badly damaged or destroyed at the Heaphy River, Gunner River, and Pitt Creek.
Davies said the department successfully bid under the Cyclone Dovi budget program for Heaphy repairs, which were going to take time.
The repair package included a climate change assessment on the damaged section of track to examine the alignment and location of a new bridge over the River Heaphy, for example.
“We’re also having issues with the availability of contractors and supplies… At this point, I can’t say when the track will be open as an experiment,” Davies said.
David Kwant / The Old Ghost Road
The Old Ghost Road was a legend even before it opened in 2015. (Video first posted April 2021).
He noted that the Heaphy was a major economic contributor to the Karamea and Golden Bay communities at this time of year.
The department was also working closely with the Backcountry Trust, which operates the storm-hit Old Ghost route between Lyell and Seddonville.
“It survived Cyclone Dovi in February but did not survive two weather events in April and early May.”
Davies noted that a series of “extreme thunderstorms” in May significantly affected every stream crossing on the DOC-administered section of the first 10 miles of track in the Lyell Valley.
Full repair costs were not yet known, but the trust had secured funding from the National Extreme Weather Cycle Paths Project, Davies said.
Meanwhile, Haworth said the slide that closed the Paparoa track between the north end of the escarpment and Pororari’s hut in April had not moved after repairs.
The track reopened the second week of May, but it had again been closed at other locations due to bad weather.
The condition of the Pike 29 trail, which has not yet opened, was “exceptional”, but the department was managing several other storm damage closures or repairs, including on the Coal Creek Falls trail in Runanga, while that the Kirwans track in Inangahua had been closed for some. weather due to storm damage.