Bridges close in Southland cash squeeze

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    THREE Southland District bridges are set to be permanently closed as there is not enough funding for repairs and maintenance of all the Southland District’s bridges.

    Hartley Hare, the Southland District Council’s (SDC) strategic manager of transport, said the council maintained 1084 structures on roads, including 850 waterway bridges.

    The three bridges set to close are the Mataura Island-Titiroa Bridge, the Channel Rd Bridge and the Evans Rd Bridge.

    Mr Hare said they had been closed after inspections had revealed them to be unsafe.

    When asked how much it would cost to repair or replace the bridges, Mr Hare said it ranged from $200,000 to $600,000 per bridge.

    However, he said the council only had an allowance of $1.5 million under the current long-term plan allocated for the renewal and maintenance of bridges and structures.

    According to the SDC’s 10 Year Plan 2018-2028 shown online, $1 million a year had been included in the plan to renew bridges.

    Mr Hare said spending was prioritised after considering aspects such as traffic use and type, alternate accessibility and potential detour lengths.

    “We’re not looking at actively going out and closing bridges.”

    Three public meetings, which will also be attended by councillors, will be held next week to inform residents of what led to the decision to close them as well as to hear future options.

    On a Facebook post from SDC informing the public of these meetings, local resident Tracy Hartley said there had been no communication regarding the closure of the Mataura Island-Titiroa Bridge, either before or after it closed permanently.

    When asked about this, Mr Hart said the bridges were closed immediately after being deemed unsafe and residents adjacent to the bridges were told.

    “In the longer term, that’s exactly what these meetings are about.”

    Ms Hartley said: “In November we flooded three times. The only way out was through the bridge. The concrete blocks were temporarily moved for small vehicles as we could not get out through the Oakland Rd side.”

    Mr Hare said the bridges were closed after considering the impact on road users, including alternative access routes during bad weather.

    When asked if there was a plan for dealing with potential accessibility issues Mr Hare said “the short answer is probably no, it’s not uncommon in weather events for a short period of time people have limited to no access… [people] can be reasonably self sufficient for a day or two.”

    It is unclear what other bridges, if any, are slated for closure, but Mr Hare said “a broader discussion,” would be had regarding future bridge closures or repairs in a consultation period leading to the next long term plan review, expected in the 2020-2021 financial year.

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