22/05/2019 9:00:00 a.m.
22 May 2019
Whanganui District Council’s Chief Executive, Kym Fell says good progress is being made on the Upokongaro Cycle Bridge project, although that might not be obvious to most people.
“There is considerable interest in this project, because the design and engineering is exciting, locals are interested in the potential economic and recreational opportunities it will provide – and because the bridge, currently located beside the Whanganui River, is highly visible to the public.”
Mr Fell says, “The reason for the current delay is to work through a number of requirements including to allow the bridge to be built higher than originally detailed.
“During the design process, we recognised there was an opportunity to add further protection from flooding by raising the bridge abutments.
“It’s not uncommon for design revisions to take place on a project of this kind. To do this, however, we needed to apply for a variation on our Resource Consent with Horizons Regional Council.”
Although construction has been temporarily halted, the Council has agreed for the contractors (Emmetts Civil Construction) to work on other projects in the meantime, minimising costs to the Council. Minor platform work is continuing on the Makirikiri Stream and the State Highway Four underpass.
An important step is to undertake appropriate consultation and Mr Fell says “this is going well and we are in the final stages of concluding positive discussions with key local stakeholders.”
Mr Fell says the consultation is being undertaken in accordance with the Resource Management Act and the Te Awa Tupua (River Claims Settlement) Act, introduced by Parliament in March 2017. “This is the first time we have undertaken engagement under this new legislation, and we have been learning and developing the processes throughout.”
“I now understand and acknowledge that we did not identify everyone we needed to speak with at the outset of this project and this is the work we are currently concluding. The community’s stake in this project is served by the Council undertaking best endeavours in terms of both design and stakeholder engagement requirements. The great thing is that the people of our district will soon have an amenity to be proud of.”
Mr Fell says expenses relating to the longer project timeframe are being carefully managed, but the final cost would not be known until completion of the project.
The Upokongaro Cycle Bridge was proposed in 2017, as a purpose-built cycle and pedestrian bridge from the small Whanganui River settlement of Upokongaro to Whanganui city, continuing to the city’s 50 km/h limit on the Aramoho side of the river.
The project is part of the Mountains to Sea cycleway, which begins in Ohakune and continues through National Park to Whanganui, ending at Castlecliff’s North Mole.
The current projected cost of the bridge and continuation of the cycle path is approximately $2.54M, with 50% of funding provided by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will fund $600,000 toward the project and Whanganui District Council will provide the remaining funds.
Emmetts Civil Construction was awarded the contract to design and build the walkway, using B. Bullocks for the earthworks and off-road cycleway construction. Holmes Consulting designed the bridge.
Engeo and Geotech Drilling undertook geotechnical work on the bridge site in late 2017.
Construction commenced in mid-2018. A variation to the Horizons Resource Consent was requested in July 2018, to enable the abutments to be built higher than originally detailed.
Raising the bridge 800 millimetres above the minimum requirements will provide an additional measure of flood protection, reducing risks to the structure from climate change effects.
Changing the height of the bridge is not related to clearance for the Waimarie Paddle Steamer, which would have been able to pass comfortably under the original bridge design.
A launch date for the bridge will depend on the granting of the Resource Consent variation as well as a number of other factors, including weather conditions.
At least two weeks’ public notice will be provided before the bridge is launched.