Concern over date of bridge completion

The Hokitika Gorge with the old swingbridge, which was closed last October. PHOTO: GREYMOUTH STAR
The Hokitika Gorge with the old swingbridge, which was closed last October. PHOTO: GREYMOUTH STAR
An end-of-summer completion date for the new Hokitika Gorge swingbridge has raised concerns in the tourist sector.

A February 2025 date has been given by the Department of Conservation to have a replacement bridge at the blue-water scenic spot, 14 months after the old swing bridge was closed.

In an update to councillors last week, Westland District Council chief executive Simon Bastion said engineers had done all the analysis work and were looking to get construction drawings and tenders out in the middle of next month for a target completion date of February 2025.

However, that came as news to councillors.

Cr Ashley Cassin said he expected the community would share the disappointment on the update.

The expectation was that it was going to be ready towards the beginning of summer, not the end, he said.

"This is the first update we've had of this and I can understand the tourism industry, which our region and district thrive off, are not happy with this update, along with myself."

Mr Bastion said they could see if Doc could bring it forward.

"But they did commit to summer having it complete and obviously February is still in the summer programme."

Mayor Helen Lash also voiced concern.

"We were given an assurance that this would be up and going and they were going to be on to it immediately, so I too am crucially concerned that it's gone from ready for this next season out to the other side potentially, and we did give the assurity to the community as well that this would be open for business for the next season."

She asked if the bridge project was at any risk given Doc was facing budget cuts, "as far as having people on the ground to do the engineering work".

Mr Bastion said no change in any resourcing had been alerted at this stage.

The design engineers were still part of the Hokitika team.

Doc is providing in-kind engineering support, procurement and project management resources for the $500,000 bridge build, while the cost is being met by a $450,000 Tourism Infrastructure Fund boost from the previous government.

The council has committed to funding $10,000 a year for the next five years, a total of $50,000.

Cr Cassin asked that Doc provide an update at its next meeting.

Cr Jane Neale said it was important the Hokitika Gorge was still promoted as a track.

"You don't do the loop but it's still an amazing walk and still well worth doing."

Mrs Lash said they also had issues with the carpark size, which was not managing the number of buses, campervans and cars.

Iwi representative Paul Madgwick said the delay was disappointing because the expectation had been early summer.

Some had feared the worst when the old bridge was closed.

"But the sky hasn't fallen and tourists are still flocking and still enjoying the experience.

"It's in progress and I think that's as well as we can expect."

The original 90-year-old bridge, corroded in parts, was closed in October due to safety concerns.

The dismantling of the old bridge will be done in conjunction with the new build as it will be used during the construction process.

— Janna Sherman