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Debris delay "unacceptable"

Debris delay "unacceptable"
Debris from the July 23 flood event remains strewn along the Ashburton Hakatere River rail and SH1 bridges two months later. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR.

A two-month delay in clearing flood debris from a SH1 bridge is “not acceptable”, Ashburton’s mayor says.

The debris from the July 23 floods remained next to the State Highway 1 Ashburton/Hakatere River Bridge, despite Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency stating on August 3 that the debris would be cleared “in the next fortnight”.

It’s now mid-September and Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said it’s not good enough.

“The delay is not acceptable.

“I was also told two weeks ago it would be removed within two weeks and it’s still there, so there will be a call to Waka Kotahi to please explain.”

So far the only action has been locals accessing the site to cut some of the debris into firewood.

Waka Kotahi maintenance contract manager for South Canterbury John Keenan said the work has been delayed while they wait for funding approval.

“While our highway contracting team waited for river levels to drop enough for them to gain safe access to the underside of the bridge and riverbed, an emergency works funding application was progressed, which has been approved in the last week and funded.

“The contractors should be starting the debris removal on the SH1 Ashburton River/Hakatere Bridge the in coming weeks, in conjunction with clearing the debris off the nearby rail bridges - at Hinds and Ashburton.”

The excuse didn't stand with Brown, who said the work needed to be done whether the funding was approved or not.

Debris forced the bridge to close on July 23.

“If it’s serious enough to close the bridge because of the debris building up, once the river level drops it should be serious enough to remove as fast as possible when it’s safe to do so," Brown said.

“That debris up against the piles causes risk for the stability of the bridge if another major flood comes down, so removing it as fast as they can would be beneficial to the life of the bridge.”

By Jonathan Leask