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Wānaka bridges expected to reopen this summer

The Wānaka App

Sue Wards

04 July 2024, 5:04 PM

Wānaka bridges expected to reopen this summerThe Blue Pools and Makarora bridges, both on the popular Blue Pools Track, were visited on average by around 550 people a day in January.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced that three popular bridges which closed last year are expected to reopen this summer.

 

DOC Central Otago operations manager Nicola Holmes said work is scheduled to begin on the Rob Roy, Blue Pools and Makarora bridges in the coming weeks, following “in-depth engineering, geotechnical, and design assessments”.



A new boardwalk between the Makarora and Blue Pools bridges will also be constructed.


DOC has been criticised by Lake Wānaka Tourism and Queenstown Lakes District Council deputy mayor Quentin Smith - among others - for its delay in upgrading the bridges.


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A Makarora accommodation provider who voiced his frustrations about the delays in February said accommodation providers were “pretty pissed off”. 


Wild Earth Lodge owner Pete Phillips told the Wānaka App that hundreds of people crossed the Makarora River in just one day in February to access the Blue Pools.


With tourists, fishermen, and trampers using the popular area it’s been lucky no one has been swept away, he said: “Everyone is being put at risk.”


Pete welcomed news yesterday (Thursday July 4) that the next stage of work had begun on the bridges.



“We are now in July so it would be good to get the job done ASAP,” he told the Wānaka App.


Nicola said the work was “a significant undertaking requiring bespoke engineering and logistics”.


“It takes time to achieve but now having done the prep work we’re in a great position to press forward.”

 

Prefabrication work off-site has begun, and work on the ground is expected to start in the coming weeks.

 

While winter is a difficult time of year for construction, the contractors have built that contingency into their time frames and all going to plan, all three bridges are expected to open during the summer, Nicola said.



“We want to thank the community for their patience as we work towards this milestone. We know it was disappointing for a lot of people when the bridges were closed. Safety is always at the heart of our decision making.”

 

Prior to their closure, the Blue Pools and Makarora bridges, both on the popular Blue Pools Track, were visited on average by around 550 people a day in January, with around 75 people per hour crossing during peak time.

 

Rob Roy Bridge, which is the only access to the Rob Roy glacier track, saw around 180 people per day over summer.

 

Numerous instances have been reported of people ignoring the load limit signs on the bridges.

 

“Engineering advice was that they could not sustain that level of usage, and with visitor numbers continuing to increase, we needed to make them safer,” Nicola said.

 

The Makarora bridge was also at the end of its operational life, she said.

 

“With work on-site set to begin soon people are reminded to stay clear of any construction sites, and follow the directions on all signage.”


PHOTO: Supplied