Renewal plan for footbridge

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Council plan to renew Ashburton historic footbridge. Photos Daniel Tobin
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Ashburton District council has adopted a conservation management plan for the town’s historic rail footbridge and will seek funding assistance for identified maintenance and renewal work, including the restoration of the central steel truss.

The 25-metre footbridge was built in 1917 and crosses the main trunk line at Wills Street; it is well used by pedestrians and cyclists as a midpoint crossing between Havelock Street and Walnut Avenue.

It is a listed historic item by Heritage New Zealand and council also records it as a heritage item in the District Plan.

It is the only remaining bridge in New Zealand of this type in the original location and used for the original purpose.

Ashburton District councillors were united at their meeting to adopt a conservation management plan for the structure and fund the required maintenance and renewal. Maintenance has been limited because of funding constraints for council’s overall bridge network in the district.

The bridge is in poor condition but safe for pedestrian and cycle use, and there is no risk from leaving the work a little longer until funding can be sourced.

Council infrastructure and open spaces group manager Neil McCann said an estimate of recommended work in 2018 was $255,000.

“But that will have increased over the past few years because of construction cost increases. For instance, the cleaning and painting of the trusses will likely cost much more than the $100,000 estimated back then.”

Funding for maintenance and renewal of the footbridge has been included in the overall subsidised budget for all of council’s 189 bridges, which is currently only $100,000 a year.

“Clearly more money is needed to restore and maintain the rail footbridge, so we will be seeking funding assistance from Waka Kotahi and other agencies to do the work,” Mr McCann said.

“Hopefully we will also be able to not only restore the footbridge but improve it with lighting because this bridge is clearly a special part of Ashburton’s history.”