More than a bridge it’s a work of art

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Queenstown’s urban design panel is taking an arty approach towards the proposed new Kawarau Falls bridge scheme being bandied about. 

The New Zealand Transport Agency unveiled its proposed new bridge at a recent Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting, after consulting QLDC’s urban design panel. 

Sugar-coating criticisms with diplomatic blandishments, the Queenstown panel critiques the bridge design as if analysing a work of art. 

The new bridge design is “a memorable companion to the historic one-way bridge”, the panel says, but “does not sit well in relation to the existing bridge”. 

“The two bridges pinch together in an awkward juxtaposition which detracts from both.” 

While the new bridge is “a simple yet graceful design … it seems as if the two [bridges] are engaged in some titanic struggle …” 

And: “The result fails to respect the historic bridge and spoils the special sense of arrival that one should feel on entering Queenstown.” 

Stripped down, the urban design panel’s four-page report recommends NZTA site the new bridge further downstream, buying up “several private properties along the Frankton riverbank” to do so. 

“Greater separation of the two bridges would allow each its own identity and dignity,” the panel says. 

The urban designers are also pushing for a 50kmh speed limit across the bridge all the way to Frankton – NZTA assumes a 70kmh limit. 

“Bridges last for a long time,” the urban design panel says. “Five or more generations will probably use this bridge.” 

This last comment could be an understatement, given the existing one-lane bridge was built in 1926 and that NZTA has been duckshoving for decades over replacing it. 

Minutes from the council’s September meeting show Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden questioning the involvement of the urban design panel and expressing concern about the cost implications of their input. 

Van Uden also questioned the emphasis on aesthetic factors, saying that getting a practical two-way bridge was the main priority. 

Cr Cath Gilmour acknowledges Van Uden’s concern but asks for one of the panel’s objectives – ensuring the bridge is usable by walkers and cyclists – to be retained, the minutes show.