Mayor confident Ashburton’s second bridge will go ahead

Ashburton District Council’s preferred location for a second bridge over the Ashburton River is...
Ashburton District Council’s preferred location for a second bridge over the Ashburton River is at the end of Chalmers Ave. Photo: Ashburton Courier
Ashburton’s mayor is confident the proposed second Ashburton River bridge will find favour with the Government but “there is no guarantee".

Neil Brown.
Neil Brown.
Neil Brown met with Finance Minister Grant Robertson at a post-Budget event in Timaru last week, where he was told the bridge was in the Budget.

“He said: ‘your second bridge is in the budget’ when I asked him about the billion dollar infrastructure spend,” Brown said.

With Treasury forecasting $61.9 billion of infrastructure investment over the next five years, Brown said while Robertson’s assurance the bridge was in the Government’s budget plans was good news, it wasn’t a guarantee.

Brown says a concrete commitment to the project will, hopefully, come later this year.

Ashburton District Council is in the process of finalising the third stage of the business case, a detailed design including costs, which will be presented to the council at the start of August.

“Once that has been approved by council, I’ll head off to Wellington with it to present it to the prime minister and deputy prime minister to see where we stand.”

The case for the bridge is clear, it’s one of connectivity and resilience for not just the town but the entire South Island, Brown said.

What is up for discussion is how the bridge will be funded, he said.

The new bridge has been estimated to cost about $40 milion and the council has budgeted 20 per cent, or about $8 million, in its Long Term Plan as its contribution to the project. It hopes to secure the remainder from the Government.

As the Chalmers Ave site is not a state highway, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency would normally only fund up to 51 per cent of the project, leaving 29 per cent of the estimated cost to be determined.

Brown hopes that the business case will convince the Government to meet that shortfall and said he will be pushing for the project to start as soon as possible.

In all likelihood it will be included in Waka Kotahi’s next three-year work plan, the National Land Transport Programme, starting in 2024.

-By Jonathan Leask
Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air

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