National committed to funding but not location of Ashburton’s second bridge

6:15 pm on 30 June 2023
Ashburton District Council and National representatives taking a look the proposed route of the second Ashburton/Hakatere River bridge on Chalmers Ave.

Ashburton District Council and National representatives taking a look the proposed route of the second Ashburton/Hakatere River bridge on Chalmers Ave. Photo: JONATHAN LEASK / ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

National says it will have the money, but stopped short of confirming where it will build a second Ashburton/Hakatere River bridge.

Ashburton Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan, standing in for Mayor Neil Brown, met with National party representatives on-site to discuss the plans for the second bridge on Friday.

National leader Christopher Luxon announced in April that, if elected in October, the party would build a second Ashburton/Hakatere River Bridge.

Following the announcement Mayor Brown said it still did not solve the $113.6m question of where the funding would come from.

National's transport spokesperson Simeon Brown yesterday provided an answer of sorts.

"It's in our transport plan which we will be announcing before the election.

"This project is one of the top priorities."

There were "strong arguments in favour" of the new bridge off Chalmers Avenue, but the lifespan of the SH1 bridge is "the critical part piece of information that needs to be confirmed", Brown said.

"We have got a really proactive council and they have worked really hard to put together what is important for the region around resilience and that's I think the number one issue for this project.

"They are also looking at those wider benefits around housing and economic growth.

"Ultimately, the existing bridge also has a lifespan that needs to be considered."

Having them on site to see first-hand the locations was key to demonstrating the council's preferred option, McMillan said.

"We have done the hard yards to get it to here, they have done a site visit and had a look so we'll have to see what happens moving forward.

"The community just wants a bridge."

Community and council consultation has already occurred, with a business case for a proposed $113.6m second bridge and associated roading infrastructure already under consideration by Waka Kotahi.

Any reconsideration of the location could put pressure on National to deliver in three years, considering it's taken well over a decade to reach the point of a completed business case at Chalmers Ave, McMillan said.

The council had wanted to see a funding commitment from the Labour Government in this year's Budget, but has been left to hope it will be included somewhere in the forecast $71B investment in infrastructure over the next five years or the $6b announced to support a National Resilience Plan.

Rangitata MP Jo Luxton said the detailed business case has been submitted to Waka Kotahi for inclusion in the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) which is currently being considered.

Former Transport Minister Michael Wood supported the project, but previously suggested there would be significant pressure on the NLTP following Cyclone Gabrielle, which caused significant damage to bridges and roads in the upper North Island.

He had left it to the council and Waka Kotahi "to explore potential alternative sources which could support the council to fund a second bridge".

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air