Abseilers complete viaduct inspections

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 12:00 05/11/2012

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An independent engineer's report on the state of four historic Southland viaducts will be completed this week after a team of abseilers spent two days dangling from great heights.

MWH senior structural engineer Derek Chinn, along with Jason Holland and Will Impelmans from Adventure Southland, completed the inspection of the Percy Burn Viaduct, one of the highest remaining timber trestle bridges in the world, along with the Edwin Burn, the Francis Burn and the Sandhill Point viaducts last week.

Under the threat of closure, after the Department of Conservation and the Southland District Council raised concerns about the viaducts safety, an independent report was commissioned by the Port Craig Viaduct Trust.

Mr Chinn said he could not comment on whether the viaducts should be closed but he would forward a report to the trust.

The high profile job went without a hitch, he said.

''Conditions were perfect, there was a little bit of wind to help keep the sandflies away and the timber was dry to walk on,'' he said.

The inspection revealed the Percy Burn definitely needed remedial work, he said.

Working on the viaducts had given him a new found respect for the industrial determination of those who built the structures in the early 1900s, Mr Chinn said.

''The viaducts are an important part of the region's history and a testament to the incredible effort of pioneers in such a remote and difficult environment.''

''We have the advantage of modern technology but working on the viaducts is still a huge challenge,'' he said.

Mr Holland, director of Adventure Southland, said working on the viaducts had been a great way to spend a few days out of the office.

''We do get to work on some tall structure but these would have to be some of the highest,'' he said.

''The viaducts are very special and definitely a draw card for Southland.''

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