Work starts on Clifden bridge

Workers on the Clifden Bridge.
Workers on the Clifden Bridge.

Scaffolding has gone up on the Clifden Suspension Bridge as restoration work on the historic structure gets under way.

The 111.5 metre bridge is the longest suspension bridge in New Zealand.

It was opened in 1899.

Managed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and registered as a Category 1 Historic Place, the bridge was closed after an inspection report identified structural deficiencies in 2010.

Scaffolding has gone up on the bridge while a full assessment of the restoration work required is carried out by Opus International Consultants.

A historic trust-commissioned report in 2010 found initial estimates to repair the bridge were about $390,000.

Trust heritage destinations manager for the southern region, Paul McGahan said restoration work would begin in March, with hopes it would be reopened to the public by mid-2013.

Works could include replacement of some of the bridge's bearers, and maintenance to suspension ropes, bolts and railing, he said.

''We will also be replacing some of the timber, where possible with material similar to the original. While it is not always possible to find material that exactly replicates the original, new material can be used in a way that is sympathetic to heritage.''

The revamped bridge would include new interpretation panels telling the story of its history, while a World War I memorial and Roll of Honour on one of the bridge's towers would also be restored, Mr McGahan said.

It was a relief to finally have the project under way, he said.

''We appreciate how important this bridge is to the people of Southland. It's been a long wait but the end result will be really positive for the community.''

Bramwell Scaffolding managing director Bruce Harvey said the company, contracted by Opus International, wanted to have the scaffolding up before Christmas.

The job of scaffolding the old bridge was challenging, Mr Harvey said.

''We can't touch the timber work and have to hang the scaffolding off the suspension cables,'' he said.

The Southland Times