Massive sports ground slip ‘like porridge’

A massive slip that took out part of a sports ground and tumbled into a popular Wellington bush reserve will take months to clear.

The material was “like porridge”, Otari-Wilton’s Bush manager Tim Park said. “We can’t even walk over it.”

The 40-meter wide expanse of sodden earth that subsided from the Wilton Park sports ground was going to be “quite a puzzle” to clear, he said. A week on from the slip, the area was still inaccessible.

It was one of more than 160 slips reported to Wellington City Council during days of heavy rain last week. Over the same period, down south, nearly half a meter of rain fell across the Nelson and Tasman regions forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

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Park said it would be months before the collapsed earth dried out and an attempt could be made to uncover the popular walking track below.

Fencing hangs from the edge of Wilton Park after a large section of the playing field subsided into the valley below on Saturday.

Juan Zarama Perini/Stuff

Fencing hangs from the edge of Wilton Park after a large section of the playing field subsided into the valley below on Saturday.

“The northwest corner of Wilton Park has basically slopped down into Otari and blocked the Kaiwharawhara Stream. Two meters of sediment has been dumped into the [South] picnic area. It’s completely impassable,” Park said.

He hoped the Kaiwharawhara Stream track would reopen “at some point in the summer”, but he doubted Wilton Park’s playing field would be usable at that point.

Most of the reserve remains open and a planned open day on September 17 would go ahead, Park said.

A large slip sent a 40-metre wide tract of material from Wilton Park into Otari-Wilton's Bush on Saturday.

Tim Park/Supplied

A large slip sent a 40-metre wide tract of material from Wilton Park into Otari-Wilton’s Bush on Saturday.

Shropshire Ave resident Karl Teariki​ said when he saw the slip across from his house, his first reaction was “holy shit”.

He doubted much could be done to repair Wilton Park, other than fencing off the affected area.

“How the heck will they fix that? It’s just a huge job,” Teariki said.

Otari-Wilton's Bush manager Tim Park says it will be months before the sodden material in the slip on the edge of the reserve can be cleared.  (File photo)

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Otari-Wilton’s Bush manager Tim Park says it will be months before the sodden material in the slip on the edge of the reserve can be cleared. (File photo)

He was keeping an eye out for any “movement or cracks” on the banks near his home.

“There’s a little one down here, but it’s just a drop in the bucket really. We dodged a bullet. We’re way more fortunate than those people down south [in Nelson/Tasman].”

Amelia White, of Ngaio, said the Kaiwharawhara Stream track below the slip was her regular walk. She often walked in the valley, even in bad weather, because it was so sheltered.

Karl Teariki says he is keeping an eye out for any movement or cracks in the land near his Wilton home.

Juan Zarama Perini/Stuff

Karl Teariki says he is keeping an eye out for any movement or cracks in the land near his Wilton home.

“It would’ve been terrifying. It’s fortunate that no one was hurt because it’s such a busy track.”

Mayor Andy Foster, an avid footballer, scored his most recent goal of the season at Wilton Park earlier this year.

The fill used to construct the playing field meant the slip could be unstable for some time, he said.

“There’s no rock in there at all, so it could just keep going,” Foster said earlier in the week.

More than 160 slips were reported to Wellington City Council during heavy rains last week.  A slip in Melrose crushed cars and cut access to houses on Saturday morning.

Jessica Gessner/SUPPLIED

More than 160 slips were reported to Wellington City Council during heavy rains last week. A slip in Melrose crushed cars and cut access to houses on Saturday morning.

The closure of the sports field made the construction of an artificial pitch in the area a higher priority and he hinted a new pitch would most likely have to be located at Ian Galloway Park.

“We’ve been mulling over sports fields in the west for a while. With the likely loss of the full-size field at Wilton, progress on an artificial turf for the west is more important.”

Capital Football operations manager Blair Duncan said just seven games had been played on the field this year. Karori clubs would welcome a more resilient artificial turf after a weather-affected year.

Andy Foster shows off his soccer skills outside Parliament in the lead up to the women's football World Cup being held in Wellington.  (Photo files).

Jericho Rock-Archer

Andy Foster shows off his soccer skills outside Parliament in the lead up to the women’s football World Cup being held in Wellington. (Photo files).

“Artificial turfs are pretty great for the amount of training and extra use you can get out of them.”

Duncan said it was a shame to see the havoc that slips had caused across the city, but he backed the council’s decision to close the grounds.

“If it can safely be reopened we would love to have it back as a football field,” he said.