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First sod turned for new Waitaki Bridges

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The first sod was today (7 March) turned in the construction of the two new bridges which will span the Waitaki River on State Highway 82 between Kurow and Hakataramea.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean performed the traditional ceremony attended by more than 80 guests, including Waimate District Council Mayor John Coles, Waitaki District Council Mayor Alex Familton, General Manager of the construction company McConnell Dowell Constructors Ltd Roger McRae and many from the local community.

The two, two-lane bridges are being built by the NZ Transport Agency to replace the existing 132-year-old one-lane wooden bridges which have reached the end of their life and been subject to closures in recent years during peak river flows. 

NZTA Southern Regional Director Jim Harland said the new bridges would not only support economic growth and productivity through the safe and efficient movement of freight but also provide a secure route for the growing number of tourists heading inland through Lewis Pass and into the Mackenzie Country.

“State Highway 82 is an important route for the local community to access services and for the distribution of supplies for the surrounding rural communities.”

The new $20.1 million* bridges are part of the NZTA’s $1 billion programme of investment in Canterbury’s transport network from 2012 to 2015.

Mr Harland said construction of the new bridges would be one of the biggest projects seen in the Kurow area since the building of the Waitaki Dam which began in the 1920s.

“It is fitting that today the first sod has been turned by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean using a shovel which was used in the early part of last century to construct the Waitaki dam.”

Mr Harland says one of the greatest benefits of the new bridges is in safeguarding the critical link between Kurow and Hakataramea that has existed since 1881.

“Rural communities rely heavily on their transport network to get equipment on site for the efficient operation of their business, as well as for the transportation of stock and other product to markets and ports for export. The new bridges will not only be two-way but have been designed to carry over-sized loads, such as agricultural machinery.”

He said safety was a strong focus for the project and by building barrier-separated pathways on each bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, locals and visitors to the area have the option to walk or cycle across the river and between the two communities.

Piling for the first of the two bridges is scheduled to start next month, the project expected to take 18 months to complete. 

* The $20.1 million for the bridges includes the design costs, consultants’ fees, consenting and the construction contract.

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