TWO of three public meetings have been held discussing reasons why three Southland bridges are set to be closed permanently.
The three bridges, Mataura Island-Titiroa Bridge, Channel Rd Bridge and Evans Rd Bridge, were maintained by the Southland District Council (SDC).
SDC strategic manager of transport Hartley Hare said the council maintained 1084 structures on roads, including 850 waterway bridges.
Of those, 170 needed to be looked at for replacement or repair in the next 12 years which, based on the bridges’ valuation, could cost $40 million.
Mr Hare said not enough money was allocated to bridges in the current long-term plan to cover costs for all bridge maintenance, repair and replacement, and further discussion would be needed in a consultation period leading to the next long term plan review, expected in the 2020-2021 financial year.
The first public meeting on Monday, at the Channel Rd Bridge, was attended by frustrated farmers and residents, such as Nan Sinclair, who wanted to know why the bridge was to remain closed.
said the situation was frustrating on a daily basis, particularly as she worked out her family were travelling more than 60km a day extra than they had previously before the closure of the bridge.
“It means you’re 40 minutes out of Invercargill… [but] you’re actually heading to Gore before turning and heading to Invercargill.
“As a family, we’ve gone through the options.”
At both the Channel Rd and Evans Rd meetings, the question was raised as to why it appeared the problems had seemingly suddenly surfaced, to which Southland District Mayor Gary Tong admitted the council hadn’t kept bridge maintenance up to standard – “we put our hand up to that”.
Those who attended the meetings were told by Mr Hare the bridges had reached the end of its natural life, and priorities were made on where to spend money, which was influenced by traffic use and type, alternate accessibility and potential detour length.
Ms Sinclair also raised concern over the lack of communication informing nearby property owners about the bridge’s future.
Mr Hare said everyone near each bridge should have been notified, but Ms Sinclair said they had received nothing.
“The council knows that of all the families we are the ones most affected, it would have been nice to have been personally notified about it.”
Similarly, Evans Rd resident Rebecca Boutherway said she had no idea until she received a flyer in her letterbox with details of the upcoming public meeting.
“I applaud them all coming to talk to us today, I just wish there had been more of that.”