ORC having to pay for temporary bridge

The Otago Regional Council is being forced to spend more than $100,000 on a temporary footbridge across the Water of Leith when at least two other options for crossing the waterway are nearby.

As part of its $5.4 million flood protection works along the Leith in front of the University of Otago's registry building, it is extending and modifying the St David St bridge to allow for the stream to be widened to take greater flood flows.

However, it means students and staff who regularly use the bridge would have to find another route.

Council engineering, hazards and science director Gavin Palmer said at a technical committee meeting yesterday a temporary footbridge was seen by the university as a ''prerequisite'' rather than a contingency measure for taking the footbridge out of action.

In response to a question from Cr Michael Deaker as to why the need for the bridge had not been foreseen, Dr Palmer said the regional council had not seen the need for it as there was access nearby across the Union St bridge and Dundas St and it was only for three months.

''It was not until late in the piece they said they expected an alternative form of access.''

The need to continue to allow students and staff to cross the bridge had caused some construction delays, which would mean the works would continue into June, he said.

The temporary bridge, about 16m long and 2m wide, was scheduled to be lifted into place tomorrow. Dr Palmer was not able to confirm yesterday the full cost of the footbridge. The council's contingency fund for the project would be used to fund the bridge.

Overall, the project was still within budget and the bridge was not expected to exhaust the contingency budget, Dr Palmer said.

While ratepayers were contributing to the cost of the work, the university was not a ratepayer, so was only contributing to the aesthetics of the project on the registry bank.

To put the bridge in place, consents were needed from both the regional and city councils.

The university wanted the footbridge put upstream of the existing bridge in a wider part of the river, which required a large span with no central support.

University chief operating officer John Patrick said the St David St bridge was a main thoroughfare for students, staff and visitors, but mainly students.

''While the works are important, the Leith project is causing significiant inconvenience for all campus users,'' Mr Patrick said.

Tens of thousands of students used it each week. The alternatives at Dundas St or Union St were not close and inconvenient, he said.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz