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Reason to celebrate

State Highway 25A Taparahi between Kōpū (near Thames) and Hikuai (juncture of SH25 and road to Whangamata) suffered significant damage with the road collapsing after the North Island’s major storm event in late January 2023. The road has been closed ever since then - a major route for all traffic between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula as well as the easiest route for Hamilton and Waikato travelling. That closure has meant less visitors, less economic interchange; less sales; some businesses have been crippled; some have decided to sell up before the point of no return; some of these good people have moved to other parts of New Zealand.

However, most have stayed believing that the future can be bright; the summer will be better; the visitors will return in large numbers; Covid is not a threat; people will forgive us for a closed Cathedral Cove track, a few vulnerable roads and several one lane-bridges. That so oft quoted word, ‘resilience’ which is applied to all kinds of policy statements and election speech mantra, really belongs to the people who just keep on going despite the disappointments, frustrations, promises not being kept and loss of income. They keep believing it’s possible to do better. There’s a lot of those people here on the Coromandel.

The region is ready to celebrate the Opening of the 124 metre-span Taparahi Bridge by 20 December. Everyone is full of gratitude to Waka Kotahi and their construction team – a mammoth efficient effort – three months ahead of schedule! Ten months ago - a large portion of the mountainside collpased and crumbled down the large slope, creating a huge canyon. Now over that disastrous landslide, spans a two-lane bridge.

Early estimates of the bridge budget were between $30m and $40m so one could say its over budget but the official stated budget, after work on the bridge commenced, of $50m has now resulted in considerable change, the cost coming in at $43m to this finished point. So, all is forgiven. That three months in saved time for the Coromandel businesses and what is saved in less time for people’s travel will more than compensate for a bigger budget. Well done to everyone who has made it possible.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Regional Manager of Infrastructure Delivery for Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Jo Wilton says, “Our team has done an amazing job, not only constructing the new bridge in record time, we’ve invested an additional $25m to enable multiple crews to clear slips, replace the original undersized culvert, and undertake crucial road maintenance work along the rest of the length of SH25A to ensure the whole corridor is up to scratch, safe and more resilient.”

“Getting this maintenance work completed now also means we can avoid further work and disruption for drivers during the busy summer period,” Ms Wilton says. Could it be time for a big celebration? Not because of a season or a festival but simply it’s time to celebrate the bridge opening. We will never be totally caught up and there’s always more to construct and repair, but The Informer is thinking a party is due – one in the streets. Watch this space – next week.

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