Surprise boost for Falls bridge

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The long-overdue $20 million replacement of Queenstown’s bottleneck Kawarau Falls Bridge may get a hurry-up. 

Otago Regional Council resource planning boss Fraser McRae confirms his regional transport committee is considering jointly funding a new bridge with the transport committee of the regional council Environment Southland. 

The current one-lane bridge is obviously an obstacle to people moving between Otago and Southland, McRae says. 

Yet if left to the NZ Transport Agency it will be at least 2016 – possibly “much later” – before a new bridge is built, he says. 

If the two transport committees put their hands in their pockets, however, they could shave two to five years off NZTA’s timeline, McRae believes. 

McRae explains that NZTA is governed by national priorities whereas provincial transport committees take a regional approach to spending their allocation of Government funding. 

Ali Timms, chair of Southland’s transport com­mittee, is personally enthusiastic but nevertheless cautious. 

“[The bridge] is certainly an important link for Southlanders so personally I feel it would make sense if we could put some money towards it,” she says. 

However, that will be up to her committee, Timms stresses. 

“If we were to make any funds available, it would only be if we weren’t able to use our funds within Southland.” 

Her committee’s top priorities are an extension of the Homer Tunnel into Milford Sound, plus a bypass at Edendale, Timms says. 

Both projects require Government approval, however, and if they’re turned down then funding might become available for Queenstown’s new bridge, she says.