Major slips in Birkenhead raise alarms bells of a wider problem

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11951950

Two major slips near the main shopping strip in Birkenhead are raising alarm bells about the stability of the area and public safety.

Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman says there is a risk of buildings keeling over and is seeking assurances from Auckland Council there will not be “some sort of serious catastrophic movement”.

He was commenting after a second slip on Tuesday this week swallowed a digger, sent a concrete light pole sliding more than 100m down into Rawene Reserve and workers scattering.

The first slip in October took about 50m of car park land, 25 carparks and huge volumes of soil mixed with tarmac, drains and stormwater debris.

Coleman today said he wants investigations being carried out by Auckland Transport extended to a carpark on the other side of the main shopping strip where “there now seems to be some movement in the ground”.

A local optometrist, Tony Chadwick, said the movement had got worse recently.

An inspection of the carpark found two areas showing movement. In one area, the ground across the cracking has subsided about 50mm.

Chadwick, whose business backs onto the slip and is now just 20m away from the latest slip, said he had received assurances from Auckland Transport that there is no danger but wanted to see the evidence.

“We are concerned our buildings are in danger. What we need is evidence that they are not. We are not getting the evidence,” he said.

Chadwick is also concerned that AT are making retrieving a lost digger a priority and work is proceeding on a main street upgrade in Birkenhead when the priority should be fixing the slip.

“You have got a sinking ship. You are painting one side while the other side is going down. It’s madness,” Chadwick said.

Coleman said it was known there was loose fill around the Rawene car park slip area but he had been told anecdotally about stormwater issues at the second car park, raising wider issues about stability of the land around Mokoia Rd from the car park through to the slip.

He said he spoke with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff about the “serious situation” yesterday and has sought assurances from the highest levels of council about public safety and the safety of buildings.

Goff could not be reached for comment today.

AT chief engineer Andrew Scoggins said a range of reports are being developed by expert advisers and these will be shared with the community at a meeting in the coming week.

“AT’s design consultant will use this data to design stabilisation works,” he said.

Scoggins said he was not aware of the cracks in the other car park, but they would be looked at as part of its investigation.

AT plan to close the Rawene carpark next week for salvage cranes and equipment to remove equipment which went down the slip last week.

Kaipatiki Local Board chairwoman Danielle Grant said the priority was the health and safety of the community, but added the slip was having a big impact on local businesses in the lead-up to Christmas.

She said the timing for a $2 million upgrade of the main street, due to start in February, should be reconsidered.

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