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Bridge to nowhere?

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014
Neville Johnson

LONG LEMON: Neville Johnson and the Matakana community fundraised for a bridge they can’t use.

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Matakana Community Group was making major headway on developing a walk and cycleway connecting Pt Wells and Matakana Village, but has been stymied by Auckland Transport rules.

The only access into the bustling village on Leigh Rd is via a narrow cutting through a hill and over Matakana River on a concrete bridge. There is no room for a footpath through the cutting and no footpath attached to the bridge.

Traffic in the village is very heavy during summer compounded by people trying to walk and cycle using hired bikes across the bridge to Morris and James pottery.

Auckland Council says it will take three to four years before they look at a footpath for the current bridge, so instead of waiting, the group fundraised and bought a $15,000, 35-metre-long metal foot bridge. The footbridge could be erected close to the current bridge.

The second-hand bridge was previously part of a bridge crossing the southern motorway.

But plans were halted when the group were advised policy dictates they need a 50-year guarantee, spokesman for the group and former principal of Matakana Primary School Neville Johnson says.

"Of course no one will sign it off for 50 years as they would be responsible if it failed.

"We are currently discussing with an engineer to see if we can approach council for a short term consent. Hopefully a consent of 20 years will be acceptable," he says.

The group is annoyed as they bought the bridges off a contractor for the Northern Gateway Alliance tasked with removing bridges, says Mr Johnson.

"They knew at the time what they were to be used for - why didn't they say something at the time," he says.

"It really is a health and safety issue."

The project is being funded mostly from donations.

The group also fundraised and bought a smaller $8000 23-metre span bridge which crossed Tamaki Drive to give walking access over another concrete bridge, at the other end of town, for traffic from Warkworth.

A new subdivision is being built on the other side but school children there, can't walk to school without sharing the bridge with traffic.

Rodney Local Board member Thomas Grace backs a 25 year consent instead of 50 years for the bridge.

"The rules are over the top," he says

The group is not the only ones to come a cropper with second-hand bridges and Mr Grace knows firsthand how frustrating it can be.

He tried to get the former Patiki Rd overbridge (SH16-Northwestern motorway Rosebank Rd area, Avondale), donated by former Transit NZ (now NZTA) to use as a crossing over SH16 at Waimauku for Waimauku School children.

The rest of the bridge was planned to cross SH16 to Woodhill School for pupils, staff and parents as there was not much parking then on other side of road.

Rotary was going to help but pulled the plug when they found it was going to take $150k to upgrade the Woodhill bridge to the required standard, including wheelchair ramps.

The bridge is now on private property crossing a stream at Wharepapa Rd at Woodhill.

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- Rodney Times

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