Far from washing away hopes of getting Ashburton’s second bridge across the line, Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown believes it has further strengthened the case for it to happen sooner rather than later.
“Our floods and the bridge being nearly washed out was a wake-up call for better resilience of our roading network.
“When our bridge was out for that few days it cut the South Island in half, so we were lucky it wasn’t more severely damaged.
“Building a second bridge gives that bridge, and the whole South Island network, resilience.”
Brown is set to head to Wellington and meet with Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty and Transport Minister Michael Wood on March 28, in a bid to help secure funding for the bridge.
The upper North Island is facing a monstrous cost to restore and repair its roading infrastructure.
Waka Kotahi national emergency response team leader Mark Owen said the cyclone caused a significant impact on state highways and bridges across the top of the north, and there will be even more damage on the local networks.
With roads and bridges needing to be rebuilt and restored in the north, Brown hopes it will not delay Ashburton’s second bridge, but help accelerate the process.
“They need to repair all the bridges in the upper north, but we need to be moving forward too.”
The business case for the $113.6 million second bridge project is now with Waka Kotahi, but work continues behind the scenes to make sure it becomes a reality, Brown said.
He pointed to the government’s $3 billion infrastructure fund as an outlet for funding the second bridge or cyclone recovery, or both.
“There is a budget coming up too, and so there may be more.”
There is also the $8.7 billion NZ Upgrade programme, that funded the Walnut Ave intersection upgrades and the soon-to-start Tinwald corridor upgrade.
The council has already budgeted $7.5m, and signalled that it would consider a larger contribution if required.
The hope is the Government will approve and fund the $113.6m, or at least the gap between Waka Kotahi’s minimum 51 per cent and the council’s contribution – an
estimated $48.2m shortfall.
Brown is pushing the second bridge as “a resilience project” to help secure funding ahead of the next national land transport funding programme, with work starting on that later this year.
- By Jonathan Leask