Steely defence over new bridge


Queenstown’s new road bridge will be built with Chinese steel - but the contractor says it’s being fully tested.

Earlier this month it was revealed 1600 tonnes of Chinese steel was too weak to build bridges on the Huntly bypass.

The bypass is part of NZ Transport Agency’s $2 billion Waikato Expressway Project.

Radio NZ broke the story, saying contractors Fulton Hogan and HEB Construction chose a cheap bidder to import the steel.

They ended up with worthless Chinese test certificates.

Construction giant McConnell Dowell, contractor for the agency’s $22 million Kawarau Falls Bridge project in Queenstown, says the same mistake won’t be made here.

Before fabrication, each steel order is tested to NZ standards in China, then again by an independent tester in NZ.

McConnell Dowell’s engineering manager Daniel Patten says his company’s got a “long-standing and trusted” relationship with Eastbridge, the NZ-based steel fabricator it’s working with on steel for the Kawarau Falls Bridge.

“This supplier, which holds the highest accreditation possible, acts as our agent to procure steel from one of two major mills in China.”

Kawarau Falls Bridge’s weathering steel is supplied from NISCO Steel Mill in China.

Patten: “This is a significantly large mill with a very solid track record.”

Eastbridge bought 500 tonnes of steel plate in the past three months, he says, all of which passed ‘mechanical, chemical and ductility’ testing.

“The steel for Kawarau Falls Bridge is currently undergoing testing as per this standard NZ Transport Agency process.”

Standards for structural steel are high, ensuring it can resist heavy loads, temperature fluctuations and impacts.

International steel trader Ian Jacob, of Mill-Pro Hong Kong, says sourcing steel from China can be a minefield, with thousands of mills and suppliers, some good, some bad.

He says NISCO, or Nanjing Steel, are one of the big boys.

But in general he says there’s only one way to be sure - taking random samples from the goods once they’ve been delivered, then testing them in a NZ lab.

“It’s the only way.”