14 Feb 2011

Children forced to walk over damaged bridge

8:23 pm on 14 February 2011

Children in a rural community in the Waitaki District have had to walk across a damaged bridge to get to primary school after high river flows cut vehicle access.

The twin bridges on State Highway 82 were closed to motor vehicles last Tuesday after high river flows damaged a pile. It could be weeks until they are reopen.

The 130-year-old bridges link Hakataramea to Kurow across the Waitaki River.

Parent Nigel Patterson says at a meeting in Hakataramea on Sunday it was decided that the 37 children could be walked safely across in a group, however some are not too keen.

Mr Patterson says he can not see the bridge being fixed in the forseeable future.

Rural Women New Zealand national councillor Jocelyn McIlraith farms at Hakataramea and says the bridges link the community to Kurow and the usual 2km trip to town now covers 160km.

Ms McIlraith says the closure of the bridges happen frequently for repair work and put the rural community at risk, as emergency services are cut off and access to other essential supplies like milk and fuel is limited.

The community is to ask Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and the two district council to urgently liaise with the Minister of Transport to fast-track the building of new bridges to replace the wooden ones.

Ms McIlraith says the cost would be about $15 million. Resource consents are also needed.