6 September 2023
The construction access track at the cableway's south anchor point will be used to transport heavy vehicles and equipment to and from the tunnel's southern entrance.
Winter works completed as project springs into a new season of work
Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass project is set for a busy spring with early works for the future 235-metre tunnel forging ahead.
Over winter, the project's cableway has been put to good use in constructing a landing pad for heavy equipment past the future northern end of the tunnel.
The area around the cableway’s north anchor point is being prepared for work in summer, and the Mt Messenger Alliance will soon be floating in excavators and other material as part of preparations to begin work at the tunnel's northern entrance.
At the cableway's southern anchor point, the focus has been on further bolstering the cut face with rock bolts and soil nails. The access track in this area has now been sealed with hotmix, ready for the heavy equipment it will carry to work on the southern entrance to the tunnel.
Over the colder months, progress has continued at pace where the new road leaves the existing route at the southern base of Mt Messenger. More than 90 thousand cubic metres of material have been excavated so far and the project’s first permanent culvert has had its outlet installed along with 35 metres of pipe.
The team is also building a palisade retaining wall to stabilise a localised slip in the southern half of the new 6km route.
Construction Manager Hardus Pieters says working in winter is always challenging, but he’s pleased with developments over the last few months and happy that the project will be in good shape for the summer construction season.
“Our crews have battled through some pretty stormy weather at times and I’m happy to say that their care and expertise means that we’ve continued our excellent record of no serious injuries.”
The Mt Messenger Alliance has a major focus on caring for native species including kiwi.
Kiwi egg protected by work exclusion zone, then safely uplifted for hatching off-site
Workers at Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass are eagerly waiting for baby news after the safe uplift of a kiwi egg, as the project continues its focus on caring for native species.
While ‘Tom’ sat on an egg laid by mating partner ‘Jackie’, the Mt Messenger Alliance construction team steered completely clear, implementing a 40-metre work exclusion zone and focussing on other jobs to deliver a safer and more resilient 6km section of State Highway 3 in North Taranaki.
Tom is one of 17 kiwi in the project area that Alliance ecologists are monitoring using transmitters on the birds’ legs. When found, the birds are monitored frequently to determine their territory sizes and once these have been established, they are monitored at least once a month.
Monitoring data arrives to a hand-held receiver in the form of audible codes, providing information such as breeding status; what time the bird started feeding the previous night; and how long the bird was out for the previous night, the night before and the average over the previous four nights. The project team also conducts regular ‘sweeps’ with a kiwi conservation dog to ensure no birds have moved into construction areas.
Alliance Environmental Manager Leigh Old says the team could tell that Tom was sitting on an egg due to his reduced activity at night. “As soon as we knew he had an egg, we put the exclusion zone in place so he could incubate in peace.
“After 40 days of incubation had passed, we safely lifted the egg for hatching at the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow in Wairakei. They have a skilled team there who replicate the natural kiwi egg incubation process to ensure a high chance of chick survival.
“After hatching, the chick will be cared for until it weighs about 1kg, when it's big and strong enough to fight off stoats. At that point we’ll bring it home for release in a pest-controlled part of the project area, well away from any construction activity.”
At present, kiwi are at risk from an abundance of pests in the forest around the project area, including stoats which prey on chicks, and rats and possums which eat the fruit that native birds depend on for food.
Save the Kiwi Executive Director Michelle Impey says protecting kiwi is a responsibility that all New Zealanders should take on, regardless of industry.
“Kiwi used to live all over the country and numbered in their millions, and groups and organisations are working incredibly hard to return kiwi to places where they’ve been locally extinct for a long time,” says Ms Impey.
“News like this, that a portion of a significant roading project was essentially put on pause to prioritise this taonga species and create space for active kiwi conservation is incredibly uplifting. New Zealand needs more organisations that are willing to put conservation at the forefront of their operations.”
Alliance Manager Tony Pink says the project’s kiwi monitoring work is part of a broader commitment to deliver major environmental benefits to a forest that has been seriously damaged by predators and pests such as rats, stoats, possums, pigs and goats.
“Without doubt this is an environmental project as much as a roading project,” says Mr Pink.
“Whether we’re constructors, ecologists, labourers, tangata tiaki cultural monitors, engineers, office staff or any other role on the Alliance team, we are all so proud to be part of a project with such a major commitment to the environment around us.”
Ben Jones of Independent Crane Services (right) and Mt Messenger Alliance Manager Tony Pink.
Cableway tower's crane lift recognised with project's first award
The Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass Alliance has claimed its first industry award, for some excellent work on the project's groundbreaking cableway structure.
Ben Jones, of Alliance subcontractor Independent Crane Services, was recently presented with the Crane Association of New Zealand’s prestigious Project of the Year Award.
The achievement recognised the team's meticulous planning and execution during the lifting into place of the cableway's four 28-metre tower legs.
The 1.1km cableway is an integral part of Waka Kotahi's plan to create a safer and more resilient 6km section of State Highway 3 in North Taranaki, carrying workers and equipment into the remote heart of the project.
Silt fences are playing an important role in erosion and sediment control on Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass.
Backgrounder... the important role of silt fences
Silt fences are a critical component of erosion and sediment control (ESC) measures used in construction projects like Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass - playing a pivotal role in safeguarding our waterways and preventing the detrimental effects of sediment runoff.
One of the main roles of a silt fence is to securely contain dirty water, particularly during construction activities. On Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass, we’re aiming to tread lightly on the land, minimising any soil erosion and release of sediment into nearby waterways. Silt fences act as a protective barrier, intercepting runoff water carrying sediment and preventing it from entering streams and rivers.
The design of a silt fence is relatively straightforward. They’re basically a woven geotextile fabric installed between metal posts, which are firmly anchored into the ground.
This fabric allows water to become impounded behind the silt fence. When runoff water encounters a silt fence, the sediment is slowed down and settles out. The clean water is then able to overtop the silt fence and make its way out of site. This process effectively separates the sediment from the water, preventing dirty or cloudy water entering waterways.
While silt fences are invaluable in the fight against erosion and sediment pollution, it's important to acknowledge that they are just one part of the ESC toolkit. For comprehensive erosion and sediment control, we use a combination of measures, including erosion control in the first instance, as well as sediment retention ponds and decanting earth bunds, which are temporary containment areas where ponding and sediment settlement can occur.
The effectiveness of an ESC plan relies on a well-thought-out combination of these measures, with silt fences playing an important role in protecting our precious waterways.