Bridges among infrastructure challenges

The 88-year-old wooden Pyramid Bridge collapsed during a flood last year. Photo: ODT files
The 88-year-old wooden Pyramid Bridge collapsed during a flood last year. Photo: ODT files

The replacement of bridges, agricultural practices and tourism infrastructure are some of the key issues Southland District Council candidates are grappling with before next month's elections.

Emblematic of the infrastructure challenges facing the district is the imminent start of the Pyramid Bridge replacement project near Riversdale.

The 88-year-old wooden bridge collapsed during a flood last year.

To replace that bridge alone, the council had to allocate $1.5 million in its annual plan in June.

But at the same meeting, councillors heard about 850 bridges - many of them wooden - will need to be replaced over the next decade.

The next council will need to consider where it will find the funds for that work, and how it will be prioritised, in its 2021-31 long-term plan.

The district's problem with ageing infrastructure does not stop at bridges; add stormwater networks and Stewart Island jetties to the list.

The outgoing council succeeded in allocating funds for some key infrastructure projects in the current year's annual plan, including $12.8 million for the Te Anau wastewater project and $1.9 million for the repair and replacement of water pipes in Otautau and Te Anau.

The challenge will be to keep up momentum.

With agriculture the district's largest economic sector, candidates will also need to think about how the council can support farmers as they adapt to central Government-mandated changes in the coming years.

A Government discussion document on freshwater quality, released on September 5, raises the prospect of farmers facing annual costs in the thousands of dollars to adapt to national standards aimed at making the sector more environmentally sustainable.

The district has been remarkably successful in the past year in attracting Government funding for tourism infrastructure projects.

Only last month Milford Opportunities got $3 million from the new international visitor conservation and tourism levy to develop a master plan for Milford Sound.

But much remains to be done to catch up with the rising tide of visitors to the district's natural wonders during the past few years, and the onus will be on the district's new set of leaders to keep up the lobbying effort.

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