Characterization of a highly heterogeneous flysch deposit and excavation implications: case study from Auckland, New Zealand

Abstract

Engineering geological characteristics of the rapidly growing Auckland urban area are of increasing interest due to ongoing and planned tunnels and excavations. Auckland is mainly underlain by Miocene-age East Coast Bays Formation (ECBF), a highly heterogeneous flysch deposit, and is also affected by lava flows from the Late Quaternary Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF). Therefore, excavations in the region can encounter highly variable rock mass. Here, the geological strength index (GSI) and rock mass rating (RMR) were applied to outcrop in coastal cliff exposures located on Auckland’s North Shore, to evaluate the engineering geological properties of the ECBF. Samples were also extracted for laboratory analysis of elastic wave velocities, intact strength parameters and thin section analysis of microtexture. Specific issues identified include lenses of the heavily zeolitized Parnell Volcaniclastic Conglomerate, and marked strength contrasts within the weaker ECBF siltstone and sandstone. The ECBF sandstone, where uncemented, is much weaker and is highly permeable, while the presence of smectite clay may be problematic for tunnelling if it disaggregates, forming a ‘sticky spoil’. The presence of larger-scale defects has been problematic for tunnelling, including the presence of low shear strength clay seams along ECBF bedding planes, and bedding planes intersecting tunnel crowns.

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Acknowledgements

Discussions on ECBF characteristics and engineering properties with Warwick Prebble, Lorna Strachan, Ross Roberts, Ann Williams and Sian France provided the initial motivation for this work. Technical staff at the University of Auckland assisted with laboratory preparation of samples, and their help is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to M. S. Brook.

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Fleetwood, B., Brook, M.S., Brink, G. et al. Characterization of a highly heterogeneous flysch deposit and excavation implications: case study from Auckland, New Zealand. Bull Eng Geol Environ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10064-020-01873-0

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Keywords

  • Rock mass classification
  • GSI
  • Geotechnical properties
  • Flysch
  • Auckland