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Urgent action needed to address bridge vulnerability

June 11th, 2014
[by David Armstrong]

Fears about the vulnerability of the Motueka River bridge during the Easter storm has caused the Community Board to demand that a new bridge be put back on the New Zealand Transport Agency's agenda.

The problem was discussed at length at yesterday's board meeting, triggered by a report from board member Richard Horrell. The board agreed the issue was of crucial importance to the future of not only the settlements north of the bridge but also the Motueka town as a whole.

"In the floods a couple of weeks back we nearly lost the bridge," Richard said. "I have heard that there was a buildup of logs, along with the extremely high water level which made the actual bridge shake."

A Council engineer was on site at the time and reported to his managers that the problem caused the bridge "to shudder".

"This to me is alarming," said Richard. "This bridge is the life blood of the town and should it give way in one of the all too common flash floods, it would have far reaching effects."

He asked the Community Board to "push for all the design, costings and any land purchases for the erection of a new bridge to be completed as soon as possible so that should funding come available it could be built quickly".

"There will have to be community consultation undertaken as to the best route, but we need to push continuously for progress to be made with NZTA."

He said the 2010 report paid for by NZTA entitled "Motueka Transport Study" gives all the options and pros and cons of the various routes. "We really need to kick this into gear with urgency."

TDC's Transportation Manager Gary Clark said Council staff dealing with the event on Good Friday were on the Motueka Bridge checking it for debris and water height.

"There were three spans that were significantly choked up with debris which was reducing the flow and causing the bridge to shudder," he reported.

"This structure is an NZTA asset and Council staff were interested because of lifelines and seeing the flood in the Motueka River as it was the largest we have had for some time. NZTA have been informed of the issue that we saw and it is up to them how they want to deal with the matter."

Richard said that although it may take some time before the bridge could be replaced with another in the same area, the planning, design, land purchases and consultation should happen now so that when funds do become available the project would be ready to go.

He also said it was important not to be sidetracked by issues around any town bypass and a new bridge that that would involve. A bypass may be 30 to 50 years away or more, and the present bridge is a problem right now.

Cr Jack Inglis said he had just returned from holidaying around the North Island, and the Motueka bridge was the worst he had seen. "I've had a gutsful of NZTA (saying it's a low priority)," he said. He would like a curved bridge like the one at Kohatu.

The Board decided to write a letter to NZTA expressing their grave concerns and hand it to ward councillors who would present it at Council's next meeting with NZTA. The letter would urge bridge design to go into the pipeline and "kickstart the process".


Comment by Matt. Beech:
[Posted 15 June 2014]

The more people 'rattling the cage' and being 'squeaky wheels' on this matter, so much the better!

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