Sunday, 28 February 2021

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tairua’s Pepe Bridge listed for replacement in the next three years

The construction of a new bridge at the notorious Pepe Stream summer traffic blackspot in Tairua could get underway within the next three years.

The Pepe Bridge replacement project has been included in the Waka Kotahi-New Zealand Transport Agency Investment Proposal for the 2021 - 2024 National Land Transport Programme. The project has also been endorsed as a priority by the Waikato Regional Land Transport Committee with an outline price tag of $7 million. However, NZTA Waikato system manager, Cara Lauder, said this was an early estimate and could be refined. “As a state highway improvement, the project would be fully funded from the National Land Transport Fund,” she said.

“The project is a proactive response to the age of the bridge which is approaching the end of its design life. This creates an opportunity to address other issues with the current bridge and access within the township. Increasing the capacity of the existing bridge, duplicating it and improving walking and cycling facilities are all part of what is being considered. Once the first stages of the investigation have been completed, the local community, as well as the district and regional councils will have an opportunity to have their say.”

However, members of the public have an early opportunity to give their feedback through the Draft Regional Land Transport Plan which is currently open for submissions. This plan sets out the Waikato’s priorities for the next three years and is prepared by the Waikato Regional Transport Committee, comprising elected members from district, city and regional councils, Waka Kotahi-NZTA and the Police. In the draft, the Pepe Bridge replacement is noted as a significant project in meeting the plan’s objective to “improve network resilience, route reliability and safety on key strategic corridors including… SH25 and SH25A in recognition of its particular vulnerability to climate change and competing access, tourism and economic functions”.

This plan will be submitted to the NZTA in June and will help inform a final decision in August around which projects the National Transport Fund will support over the next three years.

However, with no clarity yet as to the design of the new bridge, Thames-Coromandel mayor, Sandra Goudie, said it was important that the public made their voices heard. While thrilled to see investment coming into the Thames-Coromandel District, she said building another single-lane bridge was “not acceptable.”

“It’s just fantastic to see a major Coromandel project included,” Mrs Goudie said. “This is the result of many many years of campaigning not just by councillors, but from many groups like the Tairua Residents and Ratepayers and it’s been going on from well before my time as mayor.

“I would encourage everyone on the Coromandel to make their feelings known through the submission process to make sure this is a two-lane bridge and that it is done in conjunction with upgrades to the bridges at Graham’s Creek and the Bailey Bridge [at Hikuai].

“To finally bring an end to what is a huge problem for the hundreds of thousands of people who come through Tairua ever year, I think a lot of people will be incredibly delighted. Hopefully our Prime Minister also had a good look at the situation during her visit here over the summer.”

Submissions on the Regional Land Transport Plan can be made through the Waikato Regional Council website or can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

According to the NZTA, the Pepe Bridge is one of 13 aging single-lane bridges on SH25 and was identified for future replacement as part of a maintenance review completed mid-2020.

Ms Lauder said a business case process was still underway in relation to the project and no further information on design options or a timeline for construction were yet available. “Throughout this process, Waka Kotahi-NZTA is committed to engaging with iwi, key stakeholders and the wider community,” she said. “Once a preferred option is agreed, additional funding will have to be approved before we can move into the design and then construction phases. We expect to be able to share more information later this year, as the business case progresses.”

Pictured: A new bridge at the Pepe Stream in Tairua has been included in Waka Kotahi NZTA’s initial list of projects to be funded under the 2021 - 2024 National Land Transport Programme.

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