Bridge petition gaining momentum

A group of Mount Aspiring College pupils jump off the Albert Town Bridge yesterday in defiance of...
A group of Mount Aspiring College pupils jump off the Albert Town Bridge yesterday in defiance of the signs banning people from doing so. They are (from left) Hadley Tamati (15), Micah Cousins (15) Tana Hansen (15), Dylan Rimmer (15), Kahu Nepia (15), Oliver Prince (15), Olly Thomas (16), Ethan Carleton (16) and Scarlet Norman (14). PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT
An online petition asking to overturn the decision to ban jumping off the Albert Town Bridge is quickly gaining momentum.

Last week, signs prohibiting people from jumping off the bridge were installed by the New Zealand Transport Agency, following discussions with the Wanaka police and Queenstown Lakes district harbourmaster Marty Black.

Mr Black said the move was made in response to several incidents this summer when jumpers had had to be rescued from the river.

He said that while the signs specifically said "no jumping'' they were nothing more than a warning at this stage.

Making it illegal through a bylaw amendment was a possible option, he said.

But Albert Town Community Association chairman Jim Cowie described it as an "overreaction'' and "heavy-handed''.

Now, a petition seeking to overturn the ban has more than 3500 signatures, just three days after it was started.

The petition was started by Mount Aspiring College pupil Olly Thomas, who did so as he believed the "community wasn't being heard''.

"While there are some problems, there was no need to go and outright ban it.

"A warning sign would be better, outlining all the dangers. I'd actually prefer that than no sign at all.''

Olly said he had jumped off the bridge about 70 or 80 times since first doing so five years ago.

"It's a Wanaka attraction, an iconic spot in Wanaka. Everyone jumps off this bridge.''

Many signatories also provided reasons for why they thought jumping should not be banned.

"It has been a well-known swimming spot for so many years. It is not fair to take something like this away,'' one said.

"This has been a summer rite of passage forever. Manage the risks and advise on safety instead of banning instead,'' another said.

Olly said if the petition reached 5000 signatories he would present it to the council and hoped to negotiate the removal of the signs with it.


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