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Kurow bridge timbers travel north for rebuild of Christchurch bridge

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Reclaimed Australian hardwood timber from the old Kurow Bridges is breathing new life into a Christchurch bridge damaged by the earthquakes.

Helmores Lane Bridge, in Little Hagley Park, the city’s only surviving 19th-century timber bridge, will live on well past its 150 years, with the help of timber salvaged from the two Waitaki River bridges, built in 1881 and replaced by the Transport Agency two years ago.

McConnell Dowell, part of the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, is repairing Helmores Lane Bridge. McConnell Dowell also had the job in 2014 of dismantling the two Waitaki River bridges, near Kurow. They have sourced about 30 bridge piles from the Waitaki District Council for a donation, for the earthquake repairs.

Washdyke miller John McCarthy is turning the Australian hardwood jarrah into hand rails, posts and cross beams for the historic bridge, built in 1866 by English barrister Joseph Helmore to cross the Avon to get to his Fendalton property.

Helmores Lane Bridge is the only remaining example of a propped beam timber bridge in Christchurch and has a Heritage NZ listing. It has its own interesting history also, uncovered as a result of the earthquakes, which found that it had been used illegally(external link) as a motor traffic bridge for many years. Legally, it should only have been a footbridge. As a result, residents’ wishes to have it returned to use purely for foot and cycling traffic turned out to be the most practical option for the Christchurch City Council.

While the bridge has been repaired and widened, about 80 per cent of the original timber frame, consisting of its piles and beams, remains. The original timber deck and the handrails have been replaced over the years. The handrails on the downstream side are being rebuilt using the original mortise and tenon joint.

The old Kurow Bridges

The old Kurow Bridges

Site supervisor Jamie Stark with one of the reclaimed jarrah beams.

Site supervisor Jamie Stark with one of the reclaimed jarrah beams.

Carpenter Reynaldo Ramos works on handrails for the Helmores Lane bridge.

Carpenter Reynaldo Ramos works on handrails for the Helmores Lane bridge.

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