On 17th October 2011 a massive landslide blocked the main highway through the Manawatu Gorge in New Zealand's North Island. And a further equally disruptive landslide occurred a few weeks later. After a tremendous amount of work, the road was finally restored to normal traffic in September 2011. Thanks are due to the team of contractors, engineers and supporting staff who worked long hours, sometimes at great personal risk, to restore the road link and maintain much needed alternative routes.
The Manawatu Gorge is an unusually deep water gap carved out over millions of years by the river as the mountain range rose. The road was completed in 1872 on the south side of the gorge which is more accessible, though notoriously more unstable, than the north side which has a foundation of older, harder rock. It is the important main road link between the east and west sides of the lower New Zealand North Island. A rail track was laid along a narrow shelf on the north side in 1881.
There's a persistent legend that's recalled every time a landslide blocks the gorge. During the Second World War, the United States Army offered to construct a tunnel linking east and west, providing the New Zealand government was willing to contribute financially. When landslides like this last one occur, we regret that finance was refused and the tunnel was never built. However, the government was likely correct in refusing finance because the country was under threat of imminent invasion and all resources were better put towards the war effort with an eventual good outcome for New Zealand.
Verse 1 Half a rotten mountainside fell down on our road. Now we go the long way round, with our heavy load. Verse 2 Tons and tons of soggy dirt landed on our road. Bridges once we crossed each day are buckled, bent and bowed. Verse 3 Where we used to love to go is closed by a road block. All because a storm awoke a moving pile of rock. Verse 4 Half a rotten mountainside fell down on our road. Now we go the long way round with our heavy load. Chorus On the road wet dirt does ooze. Such bad news we did not choose. Such bad news does not amuse. Now we sing the landslide blues!