Franz Josef community's vital Waiho bridge repairs to take longer than planned

The Westland bridge obliterated by torrential currents during storms earlier this week won't be fixed as soon as initially promised.

On Tuesday, the Waiho river bridge, south of the Franz Josef township and which is a vital transport link for the community, was destroyed as the river raged out of control during a fierce storm.

Initially the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) said a seven to ten day timeframe was estimated for the bridge to be replaced and become operational again.

But those in the region, as well as visiting tourists, may have to wait a while longer for the bridge to be fixed due to more wet weather being forecast.

"The new timeframe of 14 to 17 days could take us through to Friday, 12 April, ahead of the school holidays and Easter," said Transport Agency System Manager Peter Connors.

"Given there is more wet weather forecast for Sunday night through Monday 1 April, combined with a more refined work programme, we have revised our estimates so people have realistic timeframes in order to plan their movements and journeys around the South Island."

The bridge forms part of State Highway 6 - a popular tourist route that takes visitors all the way down the West Coast through Haast and on to Wanaka and Queenstown.

"We all understand what a critical link the Waiho Bridge is for the West Coast, and we are making every endeavour to shorten the timeframe if at all possible," said Connors.

But Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said on Thursday that issues with the bridge had been raised long before it was destroyed.

"They were saying if we get a flood that bridge is going to go and this wall that you've allowed us to put up, the gravel wall, is going to wash away.

"It's been washing away and it's so frustrating, this has been going on for seven years."

Connors said one positive consequence of the longer timeframe was that the new bridge would take heavy trucks, which was not originally planned.