Bridge to come down

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 08:51 02/08/2012
BRIDGE
ANNA LOREN

SAFETY FIRST: Hoping for a safer bridge are, from left, Claire Flavell-Kemp, Raewyn Flavell, Cameron Flavell, Alex Kemp and Joshua Kemp.

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One of Auckland's most historic fishing spots is set to get a facelift.

The Old Mangere Bridge, which has linked Mangere and Onehunga for nearly a century, is to be demolished and replaced with a new structure within the next five years.

The bridge was built in 1915 and has been closed to motor traffic since 1983 when the new motorway was opened.

More than 600 people from the surrounding communities use the bridge for walking, cycling and fishing on any given day.

But repeated blows from passing ships and general wear and tear mean the bridge will become unsafe not long after its 100th birthday.

"The time is now coming when the bridge needs to be replaced with an alternative that is both a higher quality and safer connection for the many thousands of people who rely on it," New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Steve Mutton says.

Claire Flavell-Kemp has lived nearby for nearly 30 years and says the area surrounding the bridge is an important site for her iwi, Ngati Te Ata.

"Our waka were launched here when our people came to Aotearoa."

Her main concerns with the bridge rebuild are those of safety - for both pedestrians and boat users - and respect being given to the mana whenua or traditional guardians of the land.

"It's just about respecting that the water is tapu and making sure that any environmental gains are taken care of, which run concurrent with our cultural gains as well."

Manukau Harbour Restoration Society chairman Jim Jackson also has concerns around safety.

"When there's a high tide, boats can easily be swept under the bridge," he says.

But transport agency senior planner Sarah Cronwright says several safety options are being explored for the new bridge, including pedestrian lighting and lifebuoys.

Care will also be taken to make the new structure, which will also be part of the Regional Cycling Network, safe for cyclists, she says.

‚óŹ The New Zealand Transport Agency wants feedback from residents on how they use the bridge and what they would like its replacement to include. It is distributing a newsletter and a freepost response form.

People are urged to give feedback by email to old mangerebridge@nzta.govt. nz or by filling in an online feedback form at nzta. govt.nz/oldmangerebridge.

Open days will be held at the site on August 11 and 12. Submissions close September 1.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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