Waitati footbridge will be repaired this month

New barriers have gone up to prevent pedestrian access to this flood-damaged Waitati footbridge,...
New barriers have gone up to prevent pedestrian access to this flood-damaged Waitati footbridge, with repair work due to start next week. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The long-running saga of a flood-damaged Waitati bridge is nearly over, and the bridge will be repaired this month.

Dunedin City Council transport projects team leader Gareth Evans said  the project was scheduled to be done between next Monday  and January 26.

The suspension pedestrian bridge itself could be retained, but some parts, particularly transoms and metal hangers, would have to be replaced, he  said. It was aimed to undertake a fuller investigation and to complete the work within a fortnight, unless "something unforeseen" emerged, requiring further work, he said.

The bridge was damaged after being hit by debris-strewn floodwaters in July last year, and several Waitati residents told the Otago Daily Times early this month they were frustrated about delays in repairing the suspension pedestrian bridge.

Blueskin community librarian Louise Booth said it was "great" that the bridge would be repaired.

"It’s really all we’ve asked for, and when it was going to be fixed," she said.

She had received many inquiries about the bridge from library users, and some had earlier wanted better communication about what was happening.

The bridge, over the Waitati River, provides a convenient link for residents living on the river’s north side with the Waitati School, on the south side.

The structure, at the end of Erne St, also provides access to the recently-opened Orokonui Lagoon Track, but has been closed since being damaged in July.

Some residents have continued to cross the bridge, and boards have at least twice been nailed in place across both bridge entries, accompanied by warning signs, to prevent people from crossing.

But someone has removed the boards at least twice.

Further barriers have now been placed at the bridge, with notices advising  bridge repairs were about to be undertaken.

Mr Evans warned that any further interference with warning signs and barriers at the bridge’s entries would be a "real shame" and risked "putting the public at risk".

This included  any visitors who might use the bridge without realising it was potentially unsafe.

There could be "a busload of 20 people" who walked across at the same time, he warned.

The bridge had been checked and closed immediately after the July flood.

"We couldn’t guarantee it was 100% safe," he said.

Mr Evans acknowledged that concerns had been voiced in the community over the bridge being closed, but said the council had been working through an extensive $12 million  list of repairs, including  several bridges, in the aftermath of the floods.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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