Fanfare for opening 'long-awaited' bridge
People from around the Waitaki and Waimate districts came to Kurow in their hundreds yesterday to celebrate the opening of the first of two new bridges spanning the Waitaki River on State Highway 82.
Pupils and staff from Waitaki Valley School also attended for the speeches, ribbon-cutting and karakia that took place.
The day was particularly special for 8-year-old Grace Newlands, who, along with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, took the first motorised jaunt across the bridge in a 1938 Pontiac, driven by Trevor Appleby.
Grace is the great-great-granddaughter of William Ogilvy Ross, who operated the ferry service and punt across the river until the original bridge opened in 1881.
Joining the trio were sisters Yvonne Foster and Aileen Parker, who rode their bikes along the bridges to school in the 1940s. They were led across by piper Hugh Cameron.
"The good turnout underlines the high level of anticipation and excitement at seeing the first of these new and long-awaited bridges become open," Mrs Dean said.
"When fully operational this pair of modern bridges will open up new and exciting opportunities for this area."
Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher said the day was historic for the area.
"This connection between the Waitaki and Waimate districts is crucial to our communities, economies and to our future. Without it, we would be much poorer in more ways than one."
Former Waimate mayor John Coles was delighted to see one of the bridges finally open.
"When these two bridges finally open, this will give the local community the assured ability to cross the Waitaki at any time."
Former Waitaki mayor Alex Familton also spoke and described the bridge as a vital link "socially and economically".
Next week, deconstruction work on the 133-year-old timber bridges will begin.
Material from both bridges is being donated to the Waimate and Waitaki District Councils and the Department of Conservation for local historic and community projects.
The $20.1 million project is part of NZTA's $1 billion Canterbury transport network investment project.
The second and larger of the pair of new two-lane bridges will open later this year.
The Timaru Herald