No barrier for thrill seekers on McLaren Falls bridge

By John Cousins

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Thrill-seekers jumping off the McLaren Falls bridge will soon have no obstacles in their way to stop them risking their lives.

The Western Bay District Council yesterday accepted that it was unable to physically deter people from endangering themselves by jumping off the bridge.

The decision followed years of the council erecting and repairing the fence along the side of the bridge, only to have people cut through the wire mesh or put themselves at more risk by clambering over the top.

Installing high fences had been an attempt to satisfy the coroner following a farm worker's fatal jump off the bridge in January, 1995.

The council also agreed that conventional standards would be used to protect pedestrians on the bridge and the proposed footbridge.

Council transportation manager Alex Finn cautioned the council that if someone else was killed jumping off the bridge, then a parent might point to the coroner's recommendation.

However the fence had not stopped people and the council could not be held responsible for the actions of others, he said.

Erecting a fence to stop people jumping off the footbridge would also make the footbridge unsightly, in the same way as the existing fencing made the road bridge look untidy, Mr Finn said.

There was little debate around the recommendation which asked the council to "accept the principle that council is unable, despite the installation of fences and the use of signs, to physically deter people from endangering themselves by jumping off the bridge".

As well as being an eyesore, councillors also heard that the fence prevented pedestrians from seeing cars coming down the hill and on to the bridge.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the footbridge getting built next year has taken a big step forward after Tiaki Engineering Consultants produced a plan in which the cost of the bridge has been reduced by nearly half to $265,000. The company has proposed a light frame suspension bridge.

The reduced financial hurdle means the bridge could be built next year and will be considered for funding in the 2013-14 annual plan.

The McLaren Falls Environment Enhancement Group has agreed to attempt to secure additional funding for the project.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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