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Ashburton District mayor Neil Brown wants Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to prioritise and speed up analysis of a business case for a second Ashburton River bridge.

He has reiterated again that the project is marked urgent and needs to be done as quickly as possible.

Speaking at last week’s council meeting he told Waka Kotahi regional relationships director James Caygill the 18 months suggested by the agency for the business case to move to where the funding was coming from was far too long.

Ashburton District Council expects to have a draft detailed business case for a second bridge ready by July.

Mr Brown said he hoped that case would be given priority and that it would be looked at in six months time.

He couldn’t understand why it would take so long.

“The reason we want to expedite this project is because of accessibility and resilience in this district.

“During the flood the bridge chopped this district in half,” he said.

The bridge which crosses the Ashburton River is on the State Highway 1.

“People were running out of food in Dunedin and we put the bridge out as urgent and the Prime Minister told us to get our business case done and to come back to her to see where the funding is.”

Civil Defence had also sent letters to the Minister of Transport, Prime Minister and Waka Kotahi prioritising the bridge, Mr Brown said.

James Caygill said he was happy “to look at levers to speed things up” at Waka Kotahi.

Building a new bridge was not easy, but it had been shown to be important because of supply chain issues and severance after last year’s flooding.

Understanding the true cost of the bridge was essential in order to take the project forward.

Mr Caygill said Waka Kotahi had a pot of money, but there were too many projects to do.

The cost of the bridge is estimated at $37 million, but that was before Covid-19 began affecting the construction industry and supply chains.

The council has tagged $500,000 to progress the business case and another $7.5m has been budgeted in the Long Term Plan for council’s anticipated share of the cost of construction.

-By Mick Jensen