Engineering Geomorphological Assessment and Slope Hazard Identification of the Haast Pass Highway Corridor, State Highway Six, Haast Pass New Zealand
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The Haast Pass highway has had a long history of instability since it was constructed in 1960. Steep slopes and deeply incised river create an actively changing geomorphic environment making maintaining the highway corridor hazardous and difficult. This thesis study provides the first comprehensive investigation of the highway corridor between the Summit and Thunder Creek Falls using LiDAR and detailed air-photo analysis to provide the basis for geomorphic mapping. Management of slope hazards to date has been based on a reactive approach treating the immediate unstable areas around landslides after they occur. This study presents the first large-scale geomorphological assessment of the highway corridor identifying surface unit type, slope processes and slope hazards in order to facilitate the development of a long-term highway management strategy.
Because dense vegetation covers nearly all the slopes above the highway in the study area as as such, it has not been possible to adequately investigate slope geomorphology until the availability of LiDAR. This study is the first to use Light direction and ranging[LiDAR] for corridor hazard mapping beneath dense vegetation in New Zealand. The LiDAR survey was flown by New Zealand Aerial Mapping in January 2014 for the New Zealand Transport Agency and was provided for use in this study. The LiDAR surface model created serves as the basis for mapping surface units and landslide features, enabling the identification of slope processes and landslide hazards. Aerial photos were also used to identify surface unit type and slope processes where vegetation was absent and enabled the activity of slopes to be evaluated. Interpretations made using LiDAR were validated using aerial photography and targeted ground truthing with all ground truthing sites confirming the interpretations made.
Large scale geomorphology mapping was undertaken on slopes above the highway on the western side of the valley and showed that there were distinct differences between the southern and northern parts of the highway corridor. Between The Haast Pass Summit and Pipson Creek the slopes are dominated by schist bedrock with regolith confined to small deposits next to the highway and larger deposits in tributary valleys. The slope hazards affecting the highway in this zone are confined to debris sliding and rockfall from regolith deposits and bedrock cliffs next to the highway between Robinson and Pipson Creeks. The slopes between Pipson Creek and the Gates of Haast, in contrast, consist of deep regolith deposits and regolith veneered slopes. Evidence of active and recently active slope processes on the slopes facing the highway confirm the instability is associated with slope hazards including debris flows, debris slides, rock fall and highway collapse.
Small-scale detailed evaluations were undertaken at Diana Falls, Ford Creek, The Hinge and the Gates of Haast with the sites selected based on their history of instability and/or their particu- larly hazardous appearance during the large-scale geomorphology and hazard identification. Using the LiDAR surface model surface units and landslide features were identified and mapped with small-scale engineering geomorphology maps. This information was then used to interpret the subsurface geometry and the failure mode/slope processes acting on the slope enabling an assessment of the current stability and future slope development to be made. Diana Falls was found to have scarps and tension cracks running across the regolith covered slope indicating that future landslides from this site will be an ongoing problem. At Ford Creek the landslide was identified as a rock compound slide, but assessments of its current stability and future development were unable to be made. Detailed investigations at The Hinge revealed evidence of a large creeping debris slide and the existence smaller debris slides below the highway through the entire investigation area; the debris slides identified show signs of activity and continued debris sliding will continue to affect the highway in the future. The investigation of the Gates of Haast revealed that the slope instability is not as extensive as it has been in the past, however, recent rock slides and debris flows have continued affect the highway and will continue to pose a hazard in the future.
This thesis provides fundamental information required to develop a comprehensive management plan for the Haast Pass highway corridor between the Haast Pass summit and the Gates of Haast. A new landslide management plan has been developed outlining immediate, short-term and long- term options and programmes that should be implemented. Immediate options are steps that can be taken to quickly increase the safety of road users and include moving of highway closure gates and installation of warning signage. Short-term options aim to mitigate landslide hazards where feasible including the installation of rockfall barriers and debris flow attenuators, and lay the groundwork for future avoidance of hazards by undertaking investigations of highway realignment and developing highway closure rainfall thresholds. Long-term options are recommended where landslides will continue to impact the same section of the highway repeatedly and focus on hazard avoidance by building landslide shelters or major highway realignments. The adoption of a management plan ensures security of the highway, protects against loss of life and provides the most cost effective long-term solution to manage the landsliding hazards.