$160,000 boost to save viaducts

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
Percy Burn Viaduct
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
WOODEN WONDER: Conservation Minister Nick Smith, centre, with Port Craig Viaducts Trust chairman Tom Pryde, left, and Southland District Mayor Gary Tong at Percy Burn Viaduct.

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The Government is kickstarting a fighting fund to save four historic Southland viaducts from rot and ruin by committing $160,000 to restoring them.

The giant timber viaducts were built nearly a century ago in the rugged Waitutu Forest on the south coast of the Fiordland National Park but desperately need work to keep them standing.

In an agreement between the Department of Conservation, the Southland District Council and the Port Craig Viaduct Trust, work will start next financial year to restore the Percy Burn, the Edwin Burn, the Francis Burn and the Sandhill Point viaducts.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced that his department was contributing $160,000 as he flew over the viaducts yesterday afternoon.

"We need to restore and protect these massive viaducts as a tribute to the incredible engineering feats of our pioneering ancestors.

"They are a spectacular feature of the Hump Ridge Track along the south coast of Fiordland that generations of New Zealanders and international visitors must continue to be able to enjoy," Dr Smith said.

The four viaducts were built in the early 1920s as part of a timber tramline to the Port Craig sawmills.

Last May, the Percy Burn, which is the highest timber trestle bridge in the southern hemisphere, had to be closed because of safety concerns with the decay and corrosion of the key structural elements.

"It is a huge credit to the Southland District Council, the Port Craig Viaduct Trust and the local managers of the Department of Conservation that an agreement has been reached on restoration of the viaducts and their long-term maintenance," Dr Smith said.

The work required to repair and restore the viaducts is expected to cost $480,000.

"This agreement is particularly good for the Tuatapere Hump Track Charitable Trust and Southland tourism, as the option of rerouting the track around the viaducts would take away some of the ‘wow' factor of the Hump Ridge Track experience."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the council was looking forward to working with the Government and the trust.

"Council's commitment to this agreement is of course subject to our legal and statutory obligations such as consultation within our annual plans," Mr Tong said.

Port Craig Viaduct Trust chairman Tom Pryde said he was ecstatic to hear of the Government's funding.

"The commitment by the minister of $160,000 is a fantastic start to the fundraising effort, and the trust along with the project partners will be using this to try and leverage further funding and contributions to fully restore all viaducts," he said.

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Council, DOC and the trust, along with the Tuatapere Amenities Trust, recently funded the urgent works required on Edwin Burn Viaduct. This work was completed successfully within time and within budget. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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