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Local MPs Dr Nick Smith and Maureen Pugh today opened two new bridges which are part of a trio on State Highway 63 south of Nelson to help cope with traffic re-directed from State Highway 1 following the Kaikoura earthquakes.


“These new bridges will improve the safety and efficiency of this alternate highway while the massive rebuild of SH1 occurs over the next year. I pay tribute to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and its contractors for responding to community concerns and getting these bridges constructed so quickly,” Dr Smith says.


“The St Arnaud and Upper Buller communities have been struggling to cope with the massive increase in traffic volumes arising from the Kaikoura earthquakes and the re-direction of the State Highway through their community. A key concern has been the safety of the one-way bridges and I am pleased the NZTA have positively responded to our representations by quickly constructing these additional bridges and providing two-way crossings.


The first bridge is 3 km west of St Arnaud over the Upper Buller River, the second a further 3 km over Speargrass Creek and the third another 3 km over Homestead Creek. The first and third were opened today, and Speargrass Creek will open later this month. The bridges, including approaches and guard rails, cost $300,000 each totalling over $900,000.


“I have had strong concerns from Nelson and Tasman residents at my weekly market clinic about the safety of these bridges and this stretch of State Highway, and made representations to the Minister with my colleague Maureen Pugh,” Dr Smith says.


The stretch of highway between St Arnaud and Kawatiri has had the most dramatic increase in traffic volumes from the redirection of SH1, with a six-fold increase from an average of 300 vehicles per day to 2,000 per day. Four thousand vehicles used this stretch of road on the peak day of 27 December. Heavy vehicles numbers have increased fifteen-fold from an average of 40 per day to 600 per day. Other sections of SH6, 7, 63 and 65 have had similar increases in volumes but are proportionally not as large.


“The NZTA and its contractors are under enormous pressure with the massive challenge of restoring SH1, both north and south of Kaikoura as well as the Inland Kaikoura route, but we are pleased they have responded positively to these associated pressures. The additional bridges are just part of a wide range of work of resealing, extending the carriageway in sections and new signage. We still urge both locals and travellers to take extra care as the full alternate highway route remains under pressure. I am continuing to work with the NZTA on other issues around truck stops and signage along the route.” Mrs Pugh says.


“I particularly pay tribute as Minister of Building and Construction to the engineers and contractors who have completed these new bridges in just three months. This is an extraordinarily quick response for safely constructing significant structures capable of supporting 50-tonne trucks over a river the size of the Buller,” Dr Smith concluded.

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