JOHN COSGROVE and RICHARD DAVISON
Residents of remote parts of the Catlins have expressed concerns redirected traffic from a bridge closure could make an essential link-route dangerous for users.
The Clutha District Council advised residents last week it will close the Hinahina Bridge linking Owaka and the popular tourist destination of Jacks Bay from September 1 to allow for a $3.4 million replacement to be built.
The expected 10-month closure will require those visiting Jacks Bay — a peninsula formed by the Catlins Lake, which the bridge crosses — to take an 8km detour along the lake’s southern side when travelling from Owaka.
Although residents told the Clutha Leader they welcomed the bridge replacement, several expressed concern about the condition of the unsealed Lakeside Rd section of the detour.
Retired farm manager Peter Gilder, who lives in Jacks Bay, said the extra distance to Owaka ‘‘would not bother’’ him.
‘‘It’s the main route to Owaka for us, but we’d be more concerned about the state of the detour, which needs maintenance even now.’’
Another Jacks Bay resident, Ian Thomson, said his biggest concern was the extra time it would take fire appliances to get to the small community.
“The closure of the bridge will impact on the ability to fight fires in the many baches and homes here.
“It will add about an extra 30 minutes to the response time by the Owaka Volunteer Brigade.
‘‘Most houses here are wooden so they will be gone by the time the brigade gets here.’’
Mr Thomson said he was also worried about the large truck and trailer units using the road, especially during the coming summer season when many more tourists would visit the scenic area.
“The road is often very slippery and heavy logging trucks have ripped it up in places. We are hoping the council will adhere to their statement about keeping the road in good condition.”
Farmer Jim Berney said he was glad to see work finally start on the bridge.
“I’ve been fighting for it to happen for eight years now.”
Mr Berney said Lakeside Rd was previously a good road but logging trucks had added to the damage on it.
Some of the shaded areas were very slippery at this time of the year.
The dilapidated state of the 110m bridge was brought to the council’s attention during long›term planning in 2015.
After extended investigations, the council proposed in 2018 to replace rather than repair the bridge.
The NZ Transport Agency will pay $2 million (59%) and Clutha District Council the remaining $1.4 million towards the project.
Council service delivery group manager Jules Witt said the new bridge would be single-lane, include a cycle and pedestrian lane, and be weight-rated for fully laden logging trucks.
He said the detour would be monitored, and ‘‘maintained to our usual standards for unsealed roads.’’