Old Kopu bridge’s fate looms
A final decision on the future of the old Kopu Bridge near Thames will be made following ameeting this month.
The central swing-span bridge is no longer in use following the opening of the new two-lane Kopu Bridge in December 2011. As the bridge is no longer part of the national highway network the NZ Transport Agency can no longer fund any future maintenance or upgrades.
Options, including deconstructing the bridge and using heritage features nearby, or transferring the bridge to a organisation that can manage it safely in the future have been looked at during community consultation over the past five years.
On May 26 a panel of Transport Agency staff and independent experts heard a business case from the Historic Kopu Bridge Society (HKBS) whose members would like to retain the bridge.
The Transport Agency’s Waikato/ Bay of Plenty regional director Harry Wilson said the Transport Agency would make a final decision shortly after the meeting.
“The old Kopu Bridge is a historic structure, and we recognise its past, engineering legacy and early contribution to regional economic development,” he said.
“However as it is no longer part of the state highway network the Transport Agency cannot allocate transport funding to manage it. We must either remove the bridge or vest it with a body who can manage it safely into the future.”
Mr Wilson said the Transport Agency wants to ensure they have the right information and have heard the views ofmany people ahead of the decision about the bridge’s future.
“Over the past five years we have engaged widely with local councils, Heritage NZ and the community to evaluate options,” he said,
“An independent consultant was engaged to facilitate the consultation process and to ensure that all possible options for the bridge were impartially considered and thoroughly evaluated.
“Last year we engaged an independent consultant with a background in historic structures and engineering to provide a report on the old Kopu Bridge, its predicted lifespan and the financial cost of retaining the structure.
“We did this so we could get a realistic gauge of what would be required so our staff, council and the Historic Kopu Bridge Society had an understanding of what is needed to retain the bridge and if it is achievable.
“The report is complete, and with that information in hand the Historic Kopu Bridge Society will present their business case to retain the bridge to us later this month.”
The new Kopu Bridge was opened in 2011. The old bridge can be seen on the right.