Old wooden viaduct to stay open
The historic Percy Burn Viaduct has been given a reprieve.
The old wooden viaduct was scheduled for closure today after the Conservation Department (DOC) and Southland District Council said it was a public risk.
However, department and council engineers have had a change of heart. The viaduct, which is 36 metres high and 125m long, will stay open until an independent engineer's report is completed.
An engineer and an abseiling team are to assess it on Monday for the Port Craig Viaduct Trust.
Trust secretary Steve Canny said the reprieve was welcome news.
"This will mean a thorough report will be provided to the trust and other stakeholders with expert information that will form the basis for future remedial work."
DOC southern area manager Andy Roberts said the last-minute reprieve would allow further assessment of the historical structure.
"We anticipate the independent engineer's report from the Port Craig Viaduct Trust will determine the state of the viaduct and what work is needed to repair the structure."
Mr Roberts said the decision to keep the largest wooden viaduct in the world and the largest surviving wooden structure in the southern hemisphere open would not put the public at risk.
Engineers from DOC and the council agreed that keeping the viaduct open for a further six weeks would be safe, he said.
The engineer's report was expected to be completed in about six weeks, he said.
The Percy Burn Viaduct is a feature on the Hump Ridge Track and South Coast Track with trampers crossing the structure.
Hump Ridge Track general manager Trish King said despite a contingency plan in place for the possible closure of the viaduct, it was great news to hear the viaduct would remain open.
Meanwhile, the region's great walks and tramping tracks have reopened for the summer season.
The Conservation Department's Routeburn, Milford and Kepler tracks opened this week, while the independent Hump Ridge track opened last Friday.
All the tracks are attracting bookings despite the changeable spring weather.
DOC intends to run a resurfacing programme on its three tracks this year, focusing on the areas around Lake Ada on the Milford Track, the Hollyford Face on the Routeburn Track and the Control Gates-Dock Bay on the Kepler Track.
Mrs King said the Hump Ridge Track was three-quarters full over Labour Weekend.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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