Falling rock narrowly misses bus

Pictured: Large rock fall on Haast Pass highway at Clarke Buff, SH6, last Monday afternoon.

Last Monday at 3pm Haast Pass highway was closed temporarily due to a large rockfall at Clarke Buff, SH6. “A 40-seater bus heading towards Haast saw it come down in front of them,” according to Senior Constable of Haast Police Paul Gurney. The rock fall blocked both lanes and included a large boulder which could not be “easily or safely removed with machinery”.

On Tuesday morning, Maintenance Contract Manager at NZ Transport Agency, Moira Whinham, said: “The big rock, which we need to assess the best way to remove it, is the one closest to the cliff. We don't have an assessment on weight at this stage.”

Whinham continued, “Abseilers and geotechnical advisors are at the site this morning to help the Transport Agency decide the safest way to manage this rock fall and the rock face above. We need to safely reopen the highway, which is narrow at this bluff, and no room for traffic to drive around it as the photos show with a steep slope on the other side.”. 

Constable Gurney said the local area has experienced five earthquakes in the past week, all within a few kilometres of Haast township, and describes them as “very loud bangs with a short sharp shock. All very shallow.” Gurney added, “For some, nerves are a bit rattled here.”

By yesterday morning (Wednesday 14) Gurney said, “The road to Wanaka opened at 12pm today. Approximately 130 vehicles were waiting for the barriers to be removed this morning. The local Haast cafes made the most of the extra custom from held up motorists, in what would normally be a quiet winter’s day.”


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