You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Kurow and Hakataramea communities fear if either of the twin bridges across the Waitaki River between their communities is knocked out by flooding, it could take two to three years to restore the link with a new bridge.
However, Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said this week he had been assured by the New Zealand Transport Agency if that happened, a temporary Bailey bridge would be provided.
A public meeting at Kurow on Monday night was told by the agency's southern regional director, Jim Harland, it was anticipated work would start next year on replacing the 131-year-old wooden bridges with two, two-lane bridges and be finished by 2015 at the latest.
Funding still needed to be formally approved by the agency.
At a meeting of the Waitaki District Council's committee of the whole on Tuesday, Cr Craig Dawson said the key feeling at the Monday meeting was, if some section of the existing bridges were "knocked out", it could take two to three years to restore the link.
Apart from disrupting the link between the two communities and traffic on State Highway 82, it would also affect emergency services.
At present, because of the state of the bridges, they were being monitored daily by the agency.
During high flows, they would be closed at night for safety reasons.
Cr Dawson said lives could be lost if the bridges were closed and emergency services could not reach the north side quickly.
"The bridges could be damaged at any time in a severe weather event." Cr Jim Hopkins said people were saying they did not feel safe using the bridges. The agency had said it was committed to maintaining the structures, but Cr Hopkins said it was a fragile structure "costing an arm and a leg to keep open".
Mr Familton said the bridges were being monitored. The New Zealand Transport Agency has announced strengthening work to repair damage to the bridge caused by scouring from recent high river flows will start on Monday and should be completed by October 21.
The work will require the bridge to be closed for a maximum of 10 minutes at a time from 9am to noon, and 1pm-3pm and 4pm-5pm, Monday to Friday, as the main work will be from below.