Helicopter does heavy lifting for park's bridges

Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
swing bridge repair
SUPPLIED/ Shirley Slatter
HIGH WIRE: A helicopter flies cable across Hooker River to be used to repair a swing bridge on the Hooker Valley track at Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.

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The upgrade of the Hooker Valley track, Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park, is in full swing.

Last week, a heavy-lift helicopter was brought in to lift the 12-metre towers at each end of a 100m swing bridge and lay the 180m cable over the towers. Towers for another swing bridge were also flown in.

Conservation Department community relations manager Shirley Slatter said three new swing bridges and a new track were needed as over 60,000 people used the track each year.

"These improvements will better meet the needs of visitors and improve safety," she said.

She said there were "ongoing concerns around rockfall" from the bluffs near one of the swing bridges. Once the new bridge was finished, the old bridge and the section of track around those bluffs would be removed.

Some avalanche paths, where the current track ends at Hooker Lake, on the western side of the valley, were also a safety concern.

Ms Slatter said another of the swing bridges would allow people to cross back over the Hooker River to the East Hooker, and a new 1.2km section of track would take people to a safe viewing point of the Hooker Lake.

"The first swing bridge on the track was widened last year, and work on the next two new bridges started over winter.

"However, it had to halt due to the very cold temperatures experienced at the building sites," she said.

It was first time the Conservation Department had contracted a helicopter to undertake such track work. Ms Slatter said it had been spectacular viewing.

The Hooker Valley track is one of the most popular recreational spots at the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.

This was the third version, since 1917, of the swing bridge linking the existing Wakefield track to the Hooker Valley.

The last major replacement work on the swing bridge was in 1977.

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- The Timaru Herald

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