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Hopes Gabrielle repair bill won’t see Ashburton’s second bridge pushed to back of queue

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown

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Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown says the flooding 2021 showed how much a second bridge over the Ashburton Hakatere River is needed for the town and the South Island transport network, and Cyclone Gabrielle further highlights the need for resilience in the network.
Photo: Ashburton Guardian

Far from washing away hopes of getting Ashburton’s second bridge across the line, Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown believes it has further strengthened the case for it to happen sooner rather than later.

“Our floods and the bridge being nearly washed out was a wakeup call for better resilience of our roading network.

“When our bridge was out for that few days it cut the South Island in half, so we were lucky it wasn’t more severely damaged.

“Building a second bridge gives that bridge, and the whole South Island network, resilience.”

Brown is set to head to Wellington and meet with Local government Minister Kieran McAnulty and Transport Minister Michael Wood on 28 March in a bid to help secure funding for the bridge.

‘Significant impact’

The upper North Island is facing a monstrous cost to restore and repair its roading infrastructure.

Waka Kotahi national emergency response team leader Mark Owen has said the Cyclone caused a “significant impact” on state highways and bridges across the top of the North, and there will be even more damage on the local networks.

With roads and bridges needing to be rebuilt and restored in the north, Brown hopes it will not delay Ashburton’s second bridge but help accelerate the process.

“They need to repair all the bridges in the upper north but we need to be moving forward too.”

The proposed path of Ashburton's second bridge

The proposed path of Ashburton’s second bridge is a new local road but will impact the traffic flows and ease congestion along on State Highway 1.
Photo: Supplied

The business case for the $113.6 million second bridge project is now with Waka Kotahi but work continues behind the scenes to make sure it becomes a reality Brown said.

He pointed to the government’s $3 billion infrastructure fund as an outlet for funding the second bridge or cyclone recovery, or both.

“There is a budget coming up too and so there may be more.”

There is also the $8.7b NZ Upgrade programme, that funded the Walnut Ave intersection upgrades and the soon to start Tinwald corridor upgrade.

The council has already budgeted $7.5m and signalled it would consider a larger contribution if required.

The hope is the government will approve and fund the $113.6m, or at least the gap between Waka Kotahi’s minimum 51 percent and the council’s contribution- an estimated $48.2m shortfall.

Brown is pushing the second bridge as “a resilience project” to help secure funding ahead of the next national land transport funding programme, with work starting on that later this year.

Flood funding

As districts in the North Island count the cost of the clean-up from Cyclone Gabrielle, the Ashburton District Council is still waiting to be paid out for the flood damage to its roads in July 2022.

Damage totalling $2,308,317 has been applied for (the forecast final cost). $2,265,233 worth of repairs have been completed and paid to contractors.

Infrastructure and open spaces group manager, Neil McCann, said the main reason the payment has yet to be made is Waka Kotahi needs to get additional funding from central government.

“The amount set aside for emergency works across New Zealand by Waka Kotahi for the 2021-24 Land Transport Programme has already been paid out because of the weather events already experienced.”

No timeframe has been given to receive the payment but in the meantime the council has paid the contractors.

“Contractors have been paid by council but we are not able to claim the Waka Kotahi subsidy, a minimum of 51 percent, until it is approved,” he said.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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