Bridge in good order: Waka Kotahi

The high-profile, hi-tech redevelopment of Balclutha’s north-end main street has sparked some chatter over the town’s bridge.

‘‘While the bridge is not new, it’s extremely robust with many years remaining useful life,’’ Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency senior network manager Chris Harris said.

Following a new supermarket, the development of Clutha Community Hub and South Otago Hotel-site hospitality venue, and a promising turn for South Otago Museum, some curiosity arose over the future of the near-90-year-old Mata-Au river crossing as it faces increasing volumes of heavy traffic.

‘‘State Highway 1 and the Balclutha Bridge are monitored by Waka Kotahi through routine inspections of its deck and structural components and there are no current plans for a new bridge or realignment of the highway.

‘‘We have work planned prior to Christmas to resurface the northern approach to the bridge which will require a full closure with openings hourly overnight. While the bridge is closed for the resurfacing works, we will also repair the pedestrian fences at each end and remove any dirt build-up which is difficult to access with traffic on the bridge,’’ he said.

The bridge has already been closed during low overnight traffic periods for the work.

On December 13, 1990 the Balclutha Road Bridge was classified as a Category I Historic Place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Its six 37 metre reinforced concrete arches were poured in place between 1933 and 1935, and its bluntly practical earthquake and flood resistant ‘‘bowstring’’ design by W L Newnham makes it one of the most recognisable bridges in New Zealand.

Normally for a bridge to be replaced, it would be listed in the National Land Transport Programme’s forward programme – starting with a feasibility study before progressing to detailed design.

However, Balclutha’s bridge is a long way from retirement.