The rural roadway narrows to a single lane in sections as it twists through the steep-sided gorge. There are blind corners and it’s necessary to get down almost to walking pace if you want to avoid a head-on collision.
While overall traffic in the gorge is light compared to urban Wellington roads, the road is an important connection between the Makara area and the city – and it’s popular at weekends and during the summer as cyclists do the Makara ‘loop’ and people head to the coast.
The Ohariu Stream runs through the western end of the gorge. During good weather it is benign – but any time it rains heavily for more than a few hours then the stream can become a raging torrent.
That’s why the Council’s spending $400,000 on the latest project to flood-proof the gorge roadway. Our Structures Engineer, Apollo Geneta, says contractor 1Geo Ltd has been working since September to build a timber retaining wall, supported by steel poles, below a close to 100-metre section of the roadway to protect it from the stream in flood.
The company is also placing three areas of rip rap (rock barriers), also to prevent floodwaters from washing the road away.
Apollo says the roadway from Ohariu Valley to Makara Village presents challenges due to the rugged terrain and the proximity to flood-prone streams – which is why the Council keeps a close watch on the area.
And while we’re investing to stop the roads being swept away by floods, Apollo says motorists will still have to take extra care when negotiating Takarau Gorge.
“While it’d be nice to have two lanes through there, and nice gentle curves, it won’t be happening any time soon. We have to prioritise our budgets for busier roads – and quite a lot of people like the challenge of negotiating the gorge.”
Work on the latest Takarau Gorge project is expected to be finished before Christmas – weather permitting.