DCC decision to help fund new bridge praised

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Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams is praising Dunedin city councillors for voting to pay for a share of the cost to build a new bridge, costing up to $2.5 million, to replace the flood-damaged historic Sutton suspension bridge.

Mr Williams said it was “good news” the council was committed to building a new bridge.

“It’s progress . . . We are going to get a bridge back, which will make it easier for the farmers to continue to operate.”

A single-lane cable suspension bridge, which spanned the Taieri River on Sutton-Mount Ross Rd, had stood since 1875 and was undergoing strengthening work when flooding hit in July last year.

A decision to commit to funding to build a “modern bridge” was made at a council infrastructure services and networks committee meeting on Monday.

The decision differed from the option recommended in a council report for a “new heritage bridge” to be built.

Mr Williams, of Middlemarch, said he believed a modern bridge was decided on because it would be cheaper to build.

A modern bridge would also be capable of holding more weight, allowing farmers to drive heavier machinery across it than the old bridge.

“We all loved the old bridge and would love it back but realistically, you’ve got to look at the costings and its purpose.”

Councillors voted 11-1 in favour of the modern bridge option.

Cr Lee Vandervis was the only councillor to vote against the move, arguing a suspension bridge would be more appropriate to the area’s heritage values.

Mr Williams disagreed with Cr Vandervis’ stance.

“You don’t go backwards, do you?” Mr Williams said.

Council transport group manager Richard Saunders, speaking to Taieri Times on Tuesday, said early cost estimates for a new bridge were between $2million and $2.5million.

The NZ Transport Agency had confirmed it would cover 76% of the cost, and the council would pay the remaining share.

The design of the new bridge could include heritage features, he said.

A council report revealed structural material salvaged from the collapsed bridge was not suitable for re-use but the council would reassess the possible re-use of the materials during the design process, he said.

The bridge design plans would be shaped by public consultation, and talks with the agency, before being brought back to councillors for a final decision.

The council had been given advice an increased weight limit would be achievable in a new bridge, he said.

The council had been given “strong messages” from the community board and Strath Taieri farmers to get a bridge built “as soon as possible”.

“In an ideal world we will have design under way over winter with construction at some point over summer,” Mr Saunders said.