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Tuesday
Feb072012

The Saga of the Kopu (Wooden) Bridge

Anyone reading yesterday's Herald will be aware of the "outcry" that has broken out over the future of the old bridge. Some will be aware of my position from previous posts - the sooner it is gone the better, as far as I am concerned.

But Glenn Leach has bought into the argument by suggesting that the problem can be overcome by "creating a historical landmark site" nearby. 

The Mid-Northern Heritage NZ advisor on architecture - Robin Byron, apparently wants its historical context retained "as an operational bridge". My giddy Godfather - have you ever heard such cods-wallop. And I question whether such a person is qualified to make such a suggestion. He/she wants the old wreck "refurbished" - at whose cost he/she fails to mention, let alone the practicalities of retaining the bridge as a barrier to navigation - precisely why the new bridge was built with height to facilitate navigation. Sometimes, these people in ivory towers defy logic.

Thames resident Kim Buchanan who has apparently been leading the local campaign wants Council to reconsider its position - I never even knew that Council had a position, in fact I am sure that it hasn't - it certainly has not been discussed in any meeting, and I have attended every one since the advent of the new Council - perhaps it was in one of their "closed door workshops". All we seem to have is Glenn Leach's opinion, which may or may not represent the Council position.

Ms Buchanan is apparently collecting signatures for a petition, and claims to have 500, but complains that the Council has prevented her from using the 'I' centres or libraries for this purpose.

There are two issues here that Council should be concerned about. The first is that there is a substantial block of what could be described as 'heritage' votes in Thames, and members need to be  cognisant of the emotion stirred up up amongst the older population in particular in regard to the preservation of the bridge. The previous Council experienced this when the matter was brought up during the previous term, without going anywhere - it was not necessary at that time.

The second is that there is probably nil interest in retaining the bridge on the Eastern side, and I can see this issue blowing up into an East/West debate when it comes down to the the allocation of the costs of any retention project. These could amount to anywhere between $100,000 and $1m when the state of the of piles and decking is taken into account. Annual costs will certainly exceed $100, 000. This could very well end up exclusively on Thames rates. Thames heritage advocates need to think very seriously about this because there is almost no chance of any other council or Transport NZ coming to the party in regard to these costs. 

I can see Thames councillors in particular facing a real dilemma over this issue, and I have seen no evidence based on past performance that they are equipped to deal with it. Transport NZ will be pressing for a decision in the very near future as at the moment, the bridge constitutes a potential hazard to navigation, and a deteriorating structure that will likely become extremely dangerous without constant maintenance.

Some practical, if not pragmatic decisions need to be made, and soon. Heritage NZ needs to back up their view with the funding if they are to be taken seriously. As things stand, they are simply another semi-government agency with an opinion.  Fortunately, the final decision lies in the hands of Transport NZ which is consulting the 'stakeholders'.

 

 

 

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