Percy Burn viaduct plans abandoned

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 11:44 06/12/2012

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Trampers have one final summer fling with a historic viaduct that is a highlight of two tourist tracks on New Zealand's south coast.

Urgent and costly repair work needed to keep the Percy Burn viaduct open will not be undertaken, a document obtained by The Southland Times reveals.

Instead the restoration of three remaining historic Southland viaducts will be the focus of attention and the Percy Burn will be closed after the summer tramping season.

However, without significant funding the Sand Hill, Edwin Burn and Francis Burn viaducts also face a grim future.

The document contains the the minutes from a meeting last month, attended by the Port Craig Viaducts Charitable Trust, the Tuatapere Hump Track Trust, the Department of Conservation and a representative from the Southland District Council.

The minutes say the Port Craig Viaducts Charitable Trust, in charge of the maintenance and restoration work of four 1920s viaducts, has been asked to confirm in writing the decision to forgo work on the Percy Burn and focus restoration efforts to the Sand Hill, Edwin Burn and Francis Burn viaducts.

The viaducts trust has been actioned to prepare a plan to address the maintenance work required on the remaining viaducts, the minutes say.

Port Craig Viaducts Charitable Trust chairman Tom Pryde said this week despite all the effort from the trust it would not be possible at this point in time to find the funds to keep the Percy Burn open.

The minutes say Mr Pryde was ''extremely disappointed in the decision to close the Percy Burn but no other decision could be made''.

Last week DOC visitor assets programme manager Brian Murphy told The Southland Times an independent report on the condition of the Percy Burn did not make for good reading but engineers were happy to keep the viaduct open for summer.

The minutes from last month's meeting record Mr Murphy ''expressed his disappointment in the decision to not maintain the Percy Burn and raised concerns on the ability of the viaducts trust to do what is required on the remaining viaducts''.

Viaducts trust secretary Steve Canny was recorded as saying ''a cost analysis of the maintenance is required on the remaining three viaducts and it is very important to keep advancing their classification process''.

Mr Canny advised that there were funding options out there to secure the three remaining viaducts, the minutes say.

At the same meeting, Southland District Council area engineer Graham Jones ''advised that maintenance on the remaining three viaducts would be in excess of one million dollars and without a sponsor will end up the same as the Percy Burn''.

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DOC Murihiku acting area manager and Southern Islands area manager Andy Roberts said this week the Percy Burn viaduct would remain open for the summer tramping season but an alternative crossing for the burn below the historic viaduct was being investigated by DOC staff.

The exact date of the Percy Burn's closure was in the hands of the Southland District Council but DOC wanted to have the by-pass completed before its imminent closure, Mr Roberts said.

''Our ideal is to not have to close the South Coast Track or the Hump Ridge track at all,'' he said.

DOC estimates the cost of re-routing the South Coast track would be $50,000 and take between one and two months to complete.

The by-pass would maximise viewing opportunities of the Percy Burn viaduct, Mr Roberts said.

- The Southland Times

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