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MAY 26, 2011
All bets off for road tunnels
By REBECCA THOMSON
A big quake spells disaster
Wellington s oldest tunnel will not be safe
in a major earthquake.
Wellington City Council has admitted it
is unlikely the Karori tunnel entrances
would withstand an earthquake greater
than magnitude 7. However, strengthening
work is to begin later this year.
The Karori tunnel, which opened in 1900,
has cracks and leaks, and the hillside above
the Kelburn entrance is unstable.
Transport assets manager Deven Singh
said independent structural engineers had
assessed the tunnel.
The portals [entrances] could well fall in
in a major quake, but they are perfectly fine
in normal situations, Mr Singh said.
The barrel itself should withstand a
[magnitude] 6 or 7 earthquake, but if
there s a really significant event, like an 8,
then all bets are off.
Of course, it depends where the earth-
quake is and how deep it is.
The Wellington fault runs under the
Karori tunnel and an earthquake along
that fault could result in damage to the
hillside and tunnel entrances.
Mr Singh said the Karori tunnel could be
closed for up to three months if the portals
However, the council s plans to
strengthen it include bracing the portals
with metal rods, fixing the cracks and
leaks, and building a retaining wall along
the hillside near the Kelburn entrance.
GNS spokesman John Callen said
tunnels generally performed well in
earthquakes, although the portals could
Our view is that the Karori and North-
land tunnels would probably survive all but
the biggest quakes reasonably well.
Mr Singh said work on the tunnel would
start after the Rugby World Cup, once
engineers had determined how to do so
without causing too much disruption to
Council engineers have also assessed the
Seatoun tunnel and Hataitai bus tunnel,
and the portals of both are considered an
earthquake hazard. It has been recom-
mended they be braced with steel plates
Work on the Hataitai tunnel is scheduled
for 2013-14 and on the Seatoun tunnel for
The Northland tunnel portals also
needed strengthening, Mr Singh said.
Northland tunnel will be reassessed during
the 2011-12 financial year and strengthen-
ing work is scheduled for 2014-15.
The Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels are
the responsibility of NZ Transport Agency.
NZTA spokesman Anthony Frith said
both tunnels were seismically sound, but
were undergoing maintenance work.
Both tunnels fire-fighting, ventilation
and drainage systems are being upgraded.
Work on the 80-year-old Mt Victoria tun-
nel is being carried out in two stages.
The first stage began last week and is
expected to cost $17.5 million.
The second stage is expected to be com-
pleted next year. The cost of that has not
The $50m Terrace Tunnel refurbishment
is expected to be completed in September.
Work on the three-lane, 446-metre-long
tunnel began in December.
Fast filming: Alison Walls plays a former
high school bully during the V48 Hour film
Last weekend more than 100 teams
raced around Wellington making short
films that had to include a specific prop,
character, line of dialogue and production
Walls was part of team Steamworks,
which had to film a revenge movie as part
of the film-making competition.
Photographer Antony Kitchener joined
team Steamworks for the weekend. He
said it was a lot of fun, but very tiring.
Sadly the team missed the strict deadline
by a couple of minutes.
A panel of judges will view the entries and
whittle them down to 12 finalists, which
will screen at the Embassy Theatre on
The competition is nationwide and the
best films from Wellington will be
selected to screen at the grand final in
Auckland in July.
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