Earth moved as bridge taken to river

TAKING SHAPE: The new bridge over the Waiwhakaiho River is moved slowly towards the site where it will eventually link the Coastal Walkway to Bell Block.
TAKING SHAPE: The new bridge over the Waiwhakaiho River is moved slowly towards the site where it will eventually link the Coastal Walkway to Bell Block.

New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway extension made a giant, and highly visible, step forward yesterday.

The centrepiece of the $3.1 million extension – the bridge over the Waiwhakaiho River – was moved from the yards at Fitzroy Engineering into position for installation over the river today.

The distinctive bridge, designed to conjure thoughts of a breaking wave or a whale skeleton, made an impressive sight as it went public for the first time and was transported to its new home.

Moving the bridge, 80 metres long and weighing 85 tonnes, was a major logistical undertaking even though the trip was just a few kilometres long.

Along its way, the bridge-carriers had to negotiate hills and old pa sites, travelling over damp and uneven farm land.

It was manoeuvred around trees, over fences and on to golf course fairways during a long day that began early in the morning and did not finish until the evening.

When the Taranaki Daily News took a tour of the route the bridge was to follow at 9am, there was already a flurry of preparation work under way. Fences were being taken down, diggers were strengthening culverts and smoothing the worst patches of paddock.

At the Fitzroy Engineering yards, linesmen were preparing to take down powerlines to allow the bridge to move off site.

By noon, cranes were lifting the bridge on to the two trucks which would carry it to its destination and, by about 4pm, things were ready to roll and the slow process of carrying it to the river began.

Work is expected to begin again early today, with the bridge being craned into place over the river.

New Plymouth District Council project manager Jeff Bondy said the council was pleased with the way the bridge was shaping up.

"It's a very unusual bridge for New Plymouth," Mr Bondy said.

"The whole idea was we saw it as something of a landmark."

He said transporting the bridge was a remarkable piece of work.

"It's not an easy load to shift."

Once over the river the bridge will still not open until the deck is put on, access ramps built and the connection to the walkway extension finished.

With tenders for the walkway extension itself closing only this week, the bridge is not expected to open until the middle of the year.

People wanting to watch the bridge being craned into place over the river today are advised that the best viewing spot is from the Lake Rotomanu access road.

Particularly, people should position themselves at the lookout above the carpark at the river mouth.

Taranaki Daily News