Running rock gauntlet


A Queenstown businessman fears a giant crumbling rock perched above the Crown Range Road is endangering motorists’ lives. 

Sam White, who drives the road three times a week, has watched the boulder gradually splitting apart into three pieces – each “about the size of a car” – and reckons the cracks have been widening in the past few months. 

He believes the movement of the rock, about 2km below the Crown Range summit towards Wanaka, could put road users at risk. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council is so concerned it’s earmarking a $500,000 fix for “major land instability problems” in the area. 

“I’m genuinely concerned about public safety – and the fact it appears this rock could fall at any given stage,” White warns. 

That particular rock is within the area being studied by engineering consultants, QLDC’s network operations boss Ian Marshall confirms. “There is potentially a big problem up there with unstable material,” he admits. 

But because the problem is so “broad”, a $100,000 investigation is under way to narrow the scope down before QLDC spends the remaining $400,000 on clearing and reinforcing certain areas. “We identified a year ago that there were areas that need to be studied,” he says. 

“The problem with this geotechnical stuff is it’s a ‘how long is a piece of string’-type problem in that sort of country. We could spend millions of dollars in there and the rock that falls down could be just outside the area that you dealt with.” 

Once the study is completed, which could take two more months, mitigation work
is expected to take place between October this year and April 2011.