Rural bridge fears

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Mid Canterbury high country farmer Ross Bowmar has concerns another flood, or spell of heavy rain will again wash out the Redcliffs bridge which connects his farm and others in the Rakaia Gorge to civilisation.

Mr Bowmar runs Redcliffs Station, which is located on the southern banks of the Rakaia River between the junction with the Wilberforce River and the Rakaia Gorge.

Heavy rain at the end of May caused significant damage to Double Hill Run Road that left farmers isolated for a while and forced some to use helicopters to fly in food and supplies.

Speaking to Ashburton District councillors recently, Mr Bowmar said his farm was out of action for a week after the May flood and then for four days after another rain event in July.

He was making good progress and rebuilding his farm after raging torrents had swept through it, but he still had flood concerns.

There was a daily reminder of the floods lasting impact when you went over the Redcliffs Bridge and saw the shingle carrying above the sides, he said.

It was more difficult to cross the bridge, both with machinery and stock, and a bend in the guard rail made it more likely farm machinery could hit the side.

His farm’s hydro power was now back on after five months, but there remained a big risk that shingle could back up from the bridge and bury the intake off the hydro again.

“Letting the shingle build up and digging out the bridge on a regular basis is not a sustainable or cost affective option long term. In the second flood it only took 50mm of rain and 12 hours for the bridge to be buried again.”

Mr Bowmar said an engineer from Environment Canterbury had come out and had made suggestions and had a plan.

He and his neighbours were keen to know how they could move forward and wanted more certainty.

Ashburton District mayor Neil Brown said the bridge issue was a problem that money could fix.

“The problem we have is that the money we applied for from NZTA for the next three years is $5 million short of what we asked for to maintain the whole district.

“What we are short, we need to spread thinner because we have potholes and roads that need rehabilitation everywhere in the district.

“They’re all important, but we need to prioritise and money is constrained.”

Mr Brown has asked council staff to come back with a report outlining options and costings for the Redcliffs bridge.

-By Mick Jensen