Bridge clean-up a last hurrah
As traffic creeps along Te Aroha bridge, a band of volunteers in hivis jackets spray away at 30 years worth of moss, grime, chipped paint and damage.
‘‘I’m pumped’’ Matamata-Piako District Council Ash Tanner tells Stuff as traffic motors slowly by at 9.40am on Friday.
‘‘It’s a good day to be at work.’’ It’s been a long time coming for the maverick mayor who says after years of battling through red tape and bureaucracy it’s time to finally get their prized bridge cleaned and re-painted.
Coulter Bridge was last refurbished in 1992 and that too involved a team of 70 volunteers and Tanner was among them.
He said the state of the bridge had become a sore point for the community but the $500,000 price tag quoted by Waka Kotahi was not something he was willing to consider.
‘‘As you can see it’s a hell of a mess ... initially it was going to cost about half-a-million of taxpayers’ money, so obviously that was a game-stopper.
‘‘Back in 1992 we did the whole job as a community effort at minimal to no cost whatsoever, so we’re trying to replicate that,’’ Tanner says.
NZTA owns and manages Coulter Bridge and they supplied traffic management and pedestrian personal keeping motorists in check.
But when the agency was asked to address the deteriorating condition of the bridge they were strapped for cash, stating there was a ‘‘finite amount of funding available’’ and taking a cautious approach towards public spending.
Spanning over Waihou River, the Coulter Bridge was constructed in 1928 and named after Robert Coulter, a former mayor of Te Aroha.
Since then it has provided a route between Waikato and Coromandel for thousands of motorists each day.
It’s not the first time straighttalking Tanner has taken a stance on a community issue given his previous efforts switching in a 50kmh speed sign and a friendly mayoral tattoo session with fellow district leader Toby Adams.
He says the community is firmly behind the mission to get the bridge refurbished as it’s a focal point for the town, and they’re looking forward to seeing it restored.
‘‘Everyone’s supportive of it, because this is our entranceway into our town and probably the most photographed bridge in the country because we’ve got the beautiful mountain behind and this is what they see, it looks like s...,’’ Tanner says.
‘‘So we’re here to clean it up ... we’ve just got to get things done ... what worries me is the cost escalations that we face all the time to cover red tape and bureaucracy ... here’s a classic example.’’
The volunteer group is completing the first stages of the bridge re-vamp through the day, namely spraying the surfaces with moss and mould killer before it was lathered with a fresh coat of paint.
Te Aroha ward councillor Russell Smith is also tending to the bridge clean-up and says if it took the community doing the work themselves to speed up the process then he was behind it.
‘‘It’s the entry-way into Te Aroha, and it’s been an eyesore for many years, and finally we’re doing something about it, it’s a good move,’’ he says.
‘‘This is just another bridge like many other bridges throughout New Zealand that are just forgotten about.
‘‘We’re getting plenty of support which is great, and I think once they see the finished thing they’ll be even more supportive.’’
The New Zealand transport agency, Waka Kotahi, has been contacted for further comment.