Waiho River bridge opening tomorrow

A South Westland bridge destroyed in heavy flooding late last month is set reopen tomorrow.

The nearly 30-year-old Waiho River Bailey bridge was washed away when torrential rain battered the West Coat on March 26, cutting off access between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef.

The New Zealand Transport Agency's Moira Whinham said the plan was to open the bridge today but more rain earlier this week and rising river levels meant it had to be pushed back.

Multiple contractors, the Defence Force's Army Engineers, designers and  a supportive local community in South Westland worked to get the new Bailey bridge in place as quickly as possible.

Contractors and Army Engineers have worked hard to restore the bridge. Photo: NZTA
Contractors and Army Engineers have worked hard to restore the bridge. Photo: NZTA

“People have been working extremely hard to get the bridge back over the river and reconnect the communities in South Westland,” said Ms Whinham,  NZTA's maintenance contract manager for the West Coast.

“The Transport Agency is proud of the work done and the positive attitude everyone has brought to this urgent highway project. Thanks to everyone especially the South Westland community.”

The bridge would be officially reopened at 11am.

People wanting to attend on the Franz Josef side of the Waiho River should come prepared for a short outdoor event and blessing from Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, Ms Whinham said.

Traffic would be allowed across the bridge in each direction in turn, once the ceremony was completed.

People could also watch the opening event through a live camera feed at this link from 10.30am: http://p2c.nz/waihobridgestreaming.

There was more work to do on the bridge and road users should be prepared for a slightly slower journey for the next few weeks, NZTA advised.

This work would include sealing approaches, reinstating guardrail and the pedestrian walkway. Closures could take up to an hour.

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