The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is calling for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to re-use the old, one-way Kopu Bridge near Thames. NZTA Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional director, Harry Wilson, says the agency is seeking proposals to use or open up the structure for the public to enjoy, including submissions from commercial operators.
The move follows a meeting to discuss the future of the old Kopu Bridge, held in Thames last month. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Hauraki District Council, Thames Coromandel District Council, the Historic Places Trust, the Kopu Landowners and Occupiers Association, ‘Save the Kopu Bridge’ group, the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ), the NZ Transport Agency and other representatives of the local community.
The group identified two broad options to be investigated in further detail – the Adaptive Reuse of the Bridge; or the creation of a Bridge Feature Museum. The purpose of the EOI process is to determine positive opportunities in relation to the ‘Adaptive Re-use’ option, which could encompass a wide range of potential scenarios.
‘The old Kopu Bridge is an historic structure, and we would like to find a solution that allows it to be enjoyed for years to come,’ says Harry Wilson. ‘With the opening of the new two-lane bridge over the Waihou River late last year, the old Kopu Bridge is no longer required as part of the state highway or local road networks. If a business or group has a business case they would like to present to us, which would enable the bridge to be retained in place for a specific use, they need to present us with a financially sustainable plan," Mr Wilson says.
‘The Kopu Bridge is nationally significant as the only surviving example of a swing span bridge in New Zealand,’ says the NZ Historic Places Trust’s General Manager Northern, Sherry Reynolds. ‘This is an exciting opportunity for some creative thinking to find a new use for this bridge so that it can survive into the future.’
Mayor of Hauraki District, John Tregidga, says the council supports the concept and agrees that ensuring the old bridge’s preservation is important, due to its historical significance. ‘Given ratepayer funding is not an option here, we commend this initiative’s exploration of wider funding sources.’
Thames Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach acknowledges the commitment and energy of the Coromandel community to the bridge’s future. ‘In the Coromandel we have passionate community groups wanting to lead and drive projects. The old Kopu bridge issue testifies to this energy and determination.’
‘As a council we're very much interested in understanding the will of the community at large, so the Expression of Interest process is a great way of finding out what the community wants to do in this situation. We look forward to having a look at the ideas as they come forward,’ Mayor Leach says.
NZTA’s Harry Wilson says that anyone wishing to submit an expression of interest can do so. ‘However, there are some guidelines to take into consideration.’
“All proposals received will be evaluated to identify those suitable to proceed to the next stage. This will involve those applicants submitting a formal business case and delivering a presentation outlining their case to a review panel,” Mr Wilson says. He says the stakeholder group will meet again to discuss both the NZTA’s consultants’ findings on the two broader scenarios and the specific details contained within EOIs received.
“At this stage, we intend making any information publicly available and we’ll be aiming to seek feedback from the wider community on this information and their own preferences. The final decision on what happens to the old Kopu Bridge will be made by the NZTA once all feedback has been considered. This is not likely to be until next year.” In the meantime, the old Kopu Bridge is currently closed for access to the public, but the swing span continues to be operated to enable boats to traverse the channel.
Expressions of interest must be received no later than 5pm on Friday 5 October 2012. Further information and a copy of the Expression of Interest documents can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
More information on both the new and the old Kopu bridges is available online at www.nzta.govt.nz/kopubridge.