Old Kopu bridge’s fate looms

Hamilton Metro News - - Front Page -

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.”

Photo: file.

The new Kopu Bridge was opened in 2011. The old bridge can be seen on the right.

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