$4m replacement bridge officially opened

Middlemarch locals take their first steps across the new road bridge near Sutton after it was...
Middlemarch locals take their first steps across the new road bridge near Sutton after it was officially opened on Saturday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Almost two years to the day after the historic bridge near Sutton was destroyed by a raging river, its replacement has been officially opened.

About 100 Middlemarch locals - both current and former - gathered on the new $4million Sutton-Mount Ross Rd bridge on Saturday to celebrate and be among the first people to walk across it.

The 19th-century single-lane cable suspension bridge it replaced stood there from 1875 until it was destroyed during the July 2017 floods.

Until Saturday, farmers and other residents had to negotiate lengthy detours if they wanted to cross the Taieri River.

For one local, Mavis Burgess (92), it was a particularly special occasion.

Six generations of her family had lived near and used the bridge. On Saturday, she had the honour of cutting the ribbon to mark the official opening.

"It's a marvellous and magical bridge, and I was saying to someone how higher it is than the other one."

The new bridge has a 65-tonne weight limit, was designed to withstand future flooding events and features a 1.5m-wide walking and cycle path.

Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams said the community - particularly those who used the old bridge every day - had been waiting a long time for the replacement bridge, so it was great to have it officially opened.

A combination of good weather and "excellent" work by the contractor meant it had come about $500,000 under its $4.5million budget.

"Compliments to everyone involved in the construction - they've done a fabulous job."

The stones from the old bridge's pillars were being kept in storage while the council, Heritage New Zealand and the community found a suitable project for their reuse.

Mr Williams said one or two ideas were floating around, including re-creating the pillars in Middlemarch, but there were no set plans at this stage.

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