Almost 18 months after their bridge was washed away in floodwaters, a lack of action has left a group of Maniototo residents feeling “shafted”.
The Scott Lane bridge over the Kyeburn River lost four of 13 sections of its span in flooding caused by heavy rain between January 1 and 4 last year.
The area’s residents have to cross the Kyeburn River about 150m upstream from the bridge – but only if their vehicle and conditions allow.
On the other side of Ranfurly, post-flood inspections deemed Bridge 145 (Halls Ford) on Maniototo Rd and Bridge 160 on Linnburn Runs Rd unsafe.
The future of the bridges is yet to be decided.
Those affected by the closures say they have had enough and want action.
The additional travel – up to 45 minutes in some cases – and access for emergency services, school buses and the postie particularly in winter – as well as the everyday impact on farming operations were an ongoing source of concern and frustration.
For farmer Tony Steele, access for emergency services was the front of mind.
Matt Scott and his young family live 6km from the bridge – generations of his family had farmed there for more than 100 years.
He said the situation was “massively” frustrating.
“And really just a bit of an insult to us in this corner that the councils don’t really care .. they just haven’t given us the respect of letting us know what’s going on.”
For James and Debbie Paterson, the closure of Bridge 145 (Halls Ford) divided their farm in half, with detours of up to 45 minutes to get to the other side.
Mr Paterson said the closure of the bridge had cost his farming operation “thousands”.
“We’ve lost the convenience, we’ve lost efficiency, we’ve lost economics, we’ve lost the whole lot.”
Mr Paterson said he had put options to the Central Otago District Council (CODC) to replace the bridge including buying it and making it private; installing a temporary emergency structure and also had bridge and box culvert designs and Otago Regional Council consents ready to go.
All parties spoken to by The News expressed frustration about a lack of communication and action from the district council.
CODC executive manager of infrastructure services Julie Muir said council appreciated the closures had a “significant impact” on bridge users and would discuss the bridges concerned, along with others throughout the district on June 1.
The repair and reinstatement of bridges was funded 49% by ratepayers, and 51% by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.
Waka Kotahi allocated $1.45million for 2021-24 for repairs and replacement of bridges in the region however this was not sufficient to cover all of the region Lane bridge alone was expected to exceed the entire three year budget.
Ms Muir acknowledged CODC could have provided more clarity to affected residents.