THE NEW BRIDGE – NOW OPEN – Wednesday 20 December
It was a 6.30am start from Whitianga, followed by a skip through the Tapu Road from Coroglen, a sausage roll provided graciously by the Informer for breakfast, and we were at the assigned meeting place in Kopu. We were organized into our appropriate safety gear of high viz, meteor resistant helmets and goggles and then formally greeted.
The formal greeting was given by a nice young chap (Health and Safety Site Director), featuring about ten languages but not English. When he stopped and smiled at us, everybody said a word in response, so I nodded. “Any questions?” he asked. I felt the need to clarify whether we could drive home over the Bridge once the formalities were finished. “Unfortunately, no.” The Bridge was still a working site. This was to be a Bridge Review not a Bridge Opening. I frowned as this was not the first time the Editor had tricked me into working on a job for her. I needed to learn not to be so gullible.
We members of the press then piled onto a school bus, designed specifically for children no taller that four foot, and made our way up State Highway 25A to the site. On the way we could observe some improvements to the road in terms of slip control and so on. Obviously, quite a few improvements had been made but I found concentration difficult as the benefits of the sausage roll had worn off. I eagerly awaited the refreshments that I was sure would be available on such an occasion.
Upon arrival we all spilt out and commenced our review of the Bridge and the fissure that it crossed. After a couple of jumps to reassure myself about stability, we got into conversation with members of the project staff who had been made available for us to talk to. This was quite a generous donation of staff time I felt and quite illuminating. We gained insights into the building of the bridge which was an example of how projects can be done properly, on time and within budget. A significant aid was the wiping out of the bureaucracy which delays the start of such projects, and it would be good to see this continue into the future.
Of interest was the water management that had to take place alongside the erection of the bridge. Hills above and alongside the fissure had to be drained and a spring above the bridge controlled and channelled harmlessly under the bridge.
Noticing a lot of activity down at the meeting area, I thought the food must have arrived, so I made my way down. I was disappointed; however, the arrival was not asparagus rolls; it was politicians. They proceeded to make their way up to us to review the bridge. The entourage included the Prime Minister, our local MP, the Minister of Transport, and our Mayor. After a couple of short speeches and some questions, all the VIP’s were ready to join in discussion with the throng of media.
This was a useful part of the morning with a rare chance to ask straight questions at the highest level and get a straight answer. These answers made it quite clear that we had a roading emergency which was responded to appropriately, but other regions had similar emergencies. Our other requirements were not considered so urgent, so we would need to intensify our lobbying if we want to see further progress on our state highway regarding what we would call urgent projects, such as the Pepe Bridge, Tairua.
Review over, we boarded the bus and made our way back down the hill; finding our car and commencing the drive home on the Tapu Road. I mentioned food to the Editor, but she said we didn’t need anything, and I should keep driving. Quite an interesting day but could have been more ‘full-filling’.