Clyde dam footbridge fills gap on track

The new bridge, in place on the Macetown track. Photo supplied.
The new bridge, in place on the Macetown track. Photo supplied.
A footbridge used in the construction of the Clyde Dam has a new purpose in life, straddling the Arrow River, thanks to an enthusiastic bunch of Arrowtown locals.

The 30m long bridge, costing about $50,000, was delivered by helicopter in four sections to the Arrow River gorge last week, after being readied for the airlift operation at nearby Glencoe Station, on Crown Terrace.

The bridge will form part of the historic Arrowtown to Macetown track, on land administered by the Department of Conservation, providing an alternative to the river ford.

Delivery of the recycled bridge marked the culmination of eight years' work by the Arrowtown Village Association said the chairman Richard Newman.

The bridge was originally part of the Clyde Dam project and been brought up to engineering requirements for the new location, he explained.

"It's been a big project and a battle to get through all the red tape. We had to go through a lot of hurdles to get it there."

He said it would probably be the last bridge the village association would build, because of the bureaucratic hurdles and associated costs.

Despite that, he said it was worth the effort and paid tribute to the hard, hands-on work to Arrowtown trail-blazer John Mowatt, who had worked enthusiastically for years rebuilding the Arrow River tracks.

Mr Mowatt said the bridge was originally built by the then New Zealand Electricity Department.

When the Clyde Dam project ended, it was bought by Bob Oldham, who stored it in his Wanaka yard, where it was spotted as a suitable solution for the Arrow River walkway.

The bridge was redesigned by Alexandra engineer Murray Petherick who had designed all the other footbridges on the Arrow River project, Mr Mowatt said.

After being rebuilt, with hand rails adjusted for new consent requirements, it was cut into four sections for transport.

"They weighed just over a tonne each but we transported them to Glencoe Station, which is above the river, so the helicopter just had to hover, then drop them down in to the valley below," said Mr Mowatt.

At the river, two diggers from Jones Contracting in Arrowtown were used to lift the sections into place for welding and installation.

Securing the sections into place was a major effort, said Mr Mowatt.

"It was fantastic to get it in. Every night I'd wake and hear it raining and think `we'd never get it in', so now, whenever it rains, I just lie in bed and smile."

The bridge would be fully commissioned once the approaches were completed and would then be handed over to the Department of Conservation, he added.

Doc Queenstown spokesman John Roberts said the department had assisted where possible with technical details and would give the bridge "sign off" once it was handed over, "but the hard yards belong to John Mowatt and his helpers".

"It's been very much a community project".

Mr Newman estimated the bridge had cost about $5000 more than expected because of the extra bureaucratic costs - although Lakes Environmental had waived consent application costs - and was seeking donations "from anyone who would like to help" to cover costs.