Ōpōtiki District Council was pleased to hear the New Zealand Transport Agency's announcement that the Waioeka Bridge was to be cleaned in the coming months after almost three years of raising the matter on behalf of the community.
Aileen Lawrie, Council's Chief Executive said that it had been a long time coming but it was a win for the Ōpōtiki community.
Ms Lawrie said that often getting matters through central government processes was 'time-heavy' as the nature of spending public money required proposals, budgets and contracts, all of which added up to long lead times.
"We have been told for years that because the issues aren't structural, that cleaning wasn't a priority and I can appreciate their point of view on that – the utmost care needs to be taken with public funds. But as many in the community have pointed out, it is hard to imagine a bridge in Auckland allowed to reach that state without uproar. It is the gateway to our town and the first thing people see. So everyone here is thrilled to see this get across the line so we really appreciate NZTA listening to the community and finding funding for this work," Ms Lawrie said.
Previous reports suggest that cleaning costs were close to $500,000 reflecting the nature of the traffic management challenges, scaffolding for health and safety purposes and consent issues surrounding the run-off of hydro-carbons and paint into the river below.
"It is important to acknowledge Ari Erickson's role in putting forward a solution that both protected the environment and reduced the cost. Ari is our Engineering and Services Group Manager and he outlined a concept for a custom-built cradle that would move along the side of the structure as each section is cleaned. NZTA has since taken the idea on board and is developing it further alongside Regional Council. It looks like the sort of innovative thinking they may be able to roll out elsewhere. It is great to think that we may have found a solution for a local problem that the rest of New Zealand may benefit from," Ms Lawrie said.
NZTA advises that the bridge is to be cleaned before the end of the calendar year.