Bulli Pass Landslide Risk Management Part 1 – Hazard Assessment

Andrew Hunter, Phil Flentje and Alan Moon


The Princes Highway along Bulli Pass is a narrow, heavily trafficked two lane section of the Princes Highway that traverses steep slopes on a grade of 9H:1V on the Illawarra Escarpment, about 11 km north of Wollongong, and 75 km south of Sydney in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It is an important arterial road for the northern suburbs of Wollongong, connecting Mt Ousley Road (M1 Princes Motorway) at the crest of the escarpment to the suburb of Thirroul on the coastal plain at the base of the escarpment. Bulli Pass has a long history of landslide and rockfall events, some of which were reported as early as 1890. One of the most significant of these events occurred on 17 August 1998 during a 1 in 100 year rainfall event. The 1998 landslide event comprised approximately 38 debris flows and slides and numerous rockfalls which partially inundated a number of cars and trapped about 15 cars on the pass. More recently, in early 2015, a small rockfall penetrated the windscreen of a car travelling up the pass.

Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) commissioned an investigation into slope instability hazards affecting the road in late 2011. This was followed in 2015 by a Risk Mitigation Options study and the detailed design of risk mitigation works in 2016. This paper provides an overview of the methods used to investigate hazards and assess risk at the site over a five year period. This has included research into the landslide history, geomorphological mapping, acquisition and review of airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, review of rainfall data and the development of a landslide volume frequency model. The development of this model allowed hazards to be readily communicated and risks to be assessed. The actual design and construction of the Shallow Landslide Barriers and the Debris Flow Barriers that followed on from these assessments will be discussed in a subsequent companion paper.