Relief as bridge reopens
Tuesday 8 Jan 2013 5:00 p.m.
More than $1 million, 100,000 cubic metres of gravel and stone, and 6000 tonnes of rock have been used to repair a vital bridge on the South Island's west coast.
The Wanganui River Bridge just north of Harihari is back open after almost a week of repairs, but unfortunately bad weather similar to last week is on the way.
It's not often a bridge gets a cheer, but tourists were overjoyed when it reopened.
“Well done to the guys that did it,” says tourist Tanya Whitmore.
“[It’s a] little frustrating, [we’re] on a tight schedule, it took us back about two days, but we’re relieved to get through,” says another tourist, Brody Barling.
The 40-metre section of road leading up to the bridge was washed out by severe flooding early last week, disrupting tourists' travel plans.
Tourism operators have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but already are busier than ever.
“We are absolutely delighted the road is now open, traffic is flowing and as you can see, people are coming back into town. We've had an immediate effect, we've noticed more people coming back, it's fantastic,” says Fox Tourism operator Rob Jewell.
Milk tankers were keen to get on the road, after more than 50 dairy farms were cut off.
“It's been pretty full on the last few days, pretty hectic - quite a challenge,” says tanker driver Braden Anderson. “Once we got on top of getting the silos empty it's been real good. It will be good to get back into town and back to normal.”
Bernard May of Westland Milk Products says it could've been avoided.
“Opus was definitely aware that bridge could have been washed out, NZTA needs to have a hard look at the infrastructure on the West Coast. I think they've underinvested for a long period of time."
But the Transport Agency says it believed the bridge was up to standard after more strengthening work and that not much could have been done to stop the river.
Unfortunately it looks like a similar pattern of bad weather for tomorrow, and everyone's got their fingers crossed that the roads and bridges won't have to be shut again.