Upokongaro Cycle Bridge project update

Following discussions with the project contractor, Whanganui District Council has identified 25 March or the week commencing 5 April, 2020 as key dates this year that would be suitable for the launch of the Upokongaro Cycle Bridge.

To meet the requirements for this window, Emmetts Civil Construction Limited will look to re-establish machinery, materials and staff at Papaiti and Upokongaro sites over the coming week.

Council Chief Executive, Kym Fell, says affected parties have supported the identification of possible launch dates while a variation to the Resource Consent, and finalisation of an easement, for the project is being finalised.

Under the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Settlement) Act (the Act), the riverbed over which the cycleway bridge will be placed is vested in Te Awa Tupua, therefore an easement is required to be issued by Te Pou Tupua to the bridge owner, the Council.  This function was previously the responsibility of the Commissioner for Crown Lands.

Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Kaihautū (Chief Executive) Ray Hall says “Both the resource consent and easement are close to being finalised with the necessary base agreements in place amongst the hapū, Te Pou Tupua and the Council. The parties have agreed to the re-establishment work proceeding in order to achieve the desired launch window.”

Mr Fell says, “We have identified two windows of time where favourable tide conditions allow for the launch process to occur. The launch date will still depend on a number of factors, including river flow and wind conditions.

“Historical records indicate that river and weather conditions beyond mid-April are unfavourable for a bridge launching operation. For this reason, the parties are  taking the necessary steps to make use of the available construction window.”

Part of this process will involve preparation for road closure at Papaiti with the public, commercial operators and emergency services receiving at least two weeks’ notice. The contractor and/or Whanganui District Council will contact those affected in the lead up to the bridge launch.  State Highway 4 will not require road closure during the launch.

The launch will also require restrictions for Whanganui River users and the contractor will engage with Maritime New Zealand and local river users on this matter. Meetings with the Upokongaro and Makirikiri Communities will also be held in the preceding weeks.

A plan for public safety will also be developed, anticipating the public interest in viewing the bridge launch.

Kym Fell says, “The plan will need to balance public interest with safety. Given that river navigation will be restricted, heavy machinery will be present and a state highway must remain open to traffic, therefore managing public safety will be paramount. We are investigating live-streaming the launch so that it can be safely viewed by the public.”

The opening date for the bridge has yet to be confirmed.