Bridge spans to be feature

Two sections of the historic 132-year-old Kurow twin bridges will be preserved for public display once the bridges are replaced with modern structures later this year.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will start work to replace the rickety wooden structures with two concrete two-lane bridges in March, but NZTA Southern regional director Jim Harland said as a result of talks with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the Waimate and Waitaki District Councils, it had been agreed two 12m sections would be preserved on Kurow Island.

Mr Harland said when the bridges were opened in 1881, they measured 762m long, making them one of the largest wooden structures of the time.

Bridge No1 (to the north) was still the longest wooden Howe truss bridge in the South Island, he said.

''The two spans will form part of a wider public leisure and education area on the island being developed by the local community. This is a great outcome as it allows us to preserve a slice of our history.''

He said an agreement had been reached with the Waitaki District Council to dispose of the remaining trusses, and other uses were being considered.

Construction of the new $18.5 million bridges is expected to be completed towards the end of next year and will be followed by a six-month effort to demolish the defunct wooden bridges. Kurow Town Enhancement Group member Gaynor Lines said the decision would preserve part of the township's heritage and would add to the restoration work already under way on Kurow Island.

Mrs Lines said after 95 years of being used as a dumping ground, the island was now much improved.

''We have done considerable work on the island over the last few years. We have done a lot of planting; it's looking brilliant at the moment.''

-andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz