Gorge bridge still in suspension

Karangahake Gorge's historic eastern portal bridge is still closed to walkers as Department of Conservation contractors complete a new paint job.
The corroding century-old structure was shrouded in plastic sheeting in April - not as shelter from the elements, but to protect the Ohinemuri River from pollution by lead-based paints and other construction materials.
Repairs and repainting were expected to take eight weeks, but were delayed first by a "hiccup" in getting the scaffolding up and then by wet weather and the number of days contractors were available, says the department's Tauranga area visitor assets programme manager Jeff Milham.
Last week, only a few days' worth of painting remained to be done, for which drying "warmer winds" were required due to lack of sun at the site.
However, Mr Milham declined to estimate when the bridge might reopen. Meanwhile, walkers can access the adjacent old rail tunnel from the northern side (by Karangahake Hall) but must return the same way.
The refurbishment project is part of a bigger effort to develop the Kaimai Heritage Trail, which includes historic mining and logging remains at Karangahake, Waitawheta, and elsewhere in the northern Kaimai area.
The 36m eastern portal bridge - officially the Karangahake Railway Bridge No4 - was built of trussed steel about 1905, to take the East Coast main trunk line from Auckland.
The line closed after the opening of the Kaimai tunnel in 1978; and the then Lands and Survey Department acquired the rail corridor through the gorge and developed the Karangahake historic walkway.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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