K Falls bridge hurdles go west – but not the slow-go

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The final legal roadblock preventing the replacement of the Kawarau Falls Bridge, near Queenstown, has been voluntarily withdrawn. 

Even so, the long-awaited $18 million new bridge – the southern highway link from Queenstown to the Remarkables ski area, Southland and Fiordland – is not expected to be open for another five years.

Remarkables Park Ltd and the Frankton Community Association independently withdrew appeals against the notice of requirement to alter the existing designation to enable construction, operation and maintenance of a new two-lane bridge on State Highway 6 across the Kawarau River in Frankton.

The withdrawals stopped a five-day hearing before it began yesterday in the Environment Court in Queenstown.

Remarkables Park chief executive Alistair Porter says the appellants have been in talks with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for more than a month to prevent a costly hearing.

Porter says the development company’s main concern is to make sure the designation allowed the bridge to be high enough for an efficient road and trail connection at the northern end, especially links to the Queenstown Trail around the Frankton Arm and across the 87-year-old combined bridge and dam.

”We consider those connections are important for access to the new high school that will open in 2017 and also for the adjacent primary school children going in the other direction.”

The trails are well used by locals and connect to trails around the Remarkables Park zone, he says. The links are also important between the Hilton hotel and the airport.

Porter says the NZTA has been able to ”satisfy us these options are all possible”.

Frankton Community Association chairman Scott Freeman says the association’s appeal was withdrawn because members want to concentrate on the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s transportation study for the Frankton area.

The association appealed over its preferred possibility of ”lifting up” Robertson St to connect it to the proposed bridge and form a direct link to Remarkables Park Town Centre, but the council and NZTA did not support the concept.

Lakes Environmental advertised in September 2012 the notice of requirement to alter the State Highway 6 designation at the Kawarau Falls Bridge, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council heard submissions earlier this year.

NZTA Otago-Southland highways manager Ian Duncan says, based on the council commissioners’ recommendation issued following the hearing, the agency made its decision on March 28.

Duncan says, from issues raised in the appeals, there will be minor changes around designing for walking and cycling on the old and new bridges.

Once the Environment Court confirms the designation, the Resource Management Act processes will be completed, apart from an outline plan of works.

The plan must be submitted to the council before construction, with the detail of the final design.

The future of the existing bridge and dam, owned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and leased to the agency, is not covered by the notice of requirement. 

Duncan says the existing bridge is likely to remain available for pedestrians and cyclists and the agency is working with the council to secure its future.

The design and construction of the new bridge was included in the agency’s 10-year state highway plan.

The construction programme must first go to the Otago Regional Transport Committee for inclusion in the 2015-18 regional land transport programme, then through the agency’s national prioritisation process for funding consideration.

”If construction funding is approved, work on the new bridge may start some time after 2016,” Duncan adds.

It is expected to take about two years to build. – Otago Daily Times