OPINION: For what seems like a geological age of the Earth, the people of Otago and Southland have lobbied for an upgrade of the narrow bridge that joins the two provinces.
And lo! At last it shall be. Construction of the $20-25 million project may even begin this year.
The replacement of the old single-lane Kawarau Falls Bridge is to be fast-tracked as part of a $212 million roading upgrade package announced by Prime Minister John Key at his party's conference on Sunday.
The existing bridge has been an absurdity for far too long. Like star-crossed lovers, the two most beautiful parts of New Zealand have been kept apart by a set of traffic lights.
It has also been an embarrassment. Almost every tourist who travels from Queenstown to Milford Sound goes over it twice. What must they think of this country that we tolerate such an inadequate structure on a main highway?
Critics (ie, people who do not live anywhere near Queenstown and never go there) will say it is an election bribe. Which of course it is.
But those who denounce governments bribing people with their own money are right: it is our own money. It should be spent on what we want: which is a new bridge.
If all good things from government are election bribes then the only good government is an evil one that is careful never to do anything good.
Naturally, the Labour and Green parties are outraged. They have denounced the Government for promising to build the road, and for not having built it already. They are disgusted at all the money that is being wasted on roads, and say that more should have been spent..
Most likely they are just angry that National offered the bribe before they did.
Back in the real world, travellers from Southland will enjoy crossing the new bridge on their way north to ski The Remarkables, buy pinot noir from Central Otago vineyards and party in Queenstown.
Travellers from Central Otago will enjoy crossing the new bridge on their way south to enjoy Bluff oysters, be stunned by the grandeur of Fiordland and surf the beaches of the south coast.
And no more b..... traffic lights!
- The Southland Times
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