Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Bridge for river trail a possibility to get round meatworks impasse

Waikato River Trail from Karapiro to Whakamaru. Photo / Christine Cornege
Waikato River Trail from Karapiro to Whakamaru. Photo / Christine Cornege

A new suspension bridge for cyclists and walkers across the Waikato River is being considered after negotiations stalled with meatworks company Affco to create a trail running between its meatworks and the river.

A 170m bridge is one of two options being considered by the Te Awa River Trail Trust to detour around the factory.

The bridge would be built somewhere between Ngaruawahia and Horotiu and cross over to the eastern side of the river before crossing back via the Horotiu Bridge. The suspension bridge is being touted as the best option because people would still be travelling along the river. However, it would add about $1 million to the $20 million project.

The cheaper, but less desirable, option is building a 3m wide path along SH1, past Affco's land.

Te Awa River Trail Charitable Trust project manager Jennifer Palmer said the trust had been trying to come up with a solution with Affco for two years about travelling across 1.5km of its land, near its waste water ponds, for the trail.

"We are at the point where they don't even seem to be interested in engaging with us any more. So that door seems firmly closed which is disappointing."

The final cost of the bridge would depend on where it was located and the design.

"If we were going to go ahead with this bridge we would want to make it something more than just a functional bridge and turn it into something quite iconic for the region."

Affco director of operations Rowan Ogg said the company did not want the track on its land because there was a risk associated with people cycling past the ponds.

Affco supported the original plans for the trail which had it running across the eastern side of the river. "We still believe that is the best place for it to be."

He said the original plans had the track crossing over the Horotiu Bridge at the eastern side of the river and heading north.

"I don't understand why it needs to come back."

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson said the public would still be close to the ponds even if the track ran along the other side of the river. Fonterra has contributed to the trail and Mr Sanson suggested Affco also donate some money towards the bridge.

Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council's operations and performance activity committee this week agreed it would lend its support if needed and discussed lobbying central government to step in.

The aim is to have the entire 70km Te Awa River Trail completed by the end of 2015.

Only one part of the trail between Leamington and the Mighty River Domain has been completed and the sections between Hamilton and Horotiu and beside the rowing course at Lake Karapiro are to be finished this summer.

The trust is looking at completing more achievable sections of the 70km river trail first and putting the more troubling parts, such as Horotiu and areas with large numbers of landowners or steep banks, on hold.

MIGHTY TRACK

* Leamington to Mighty River Domain - completed October 2010.
* Between Hamilton and Horotiu - to be completed end 2012.
* Lake Karapiro along the rowing course - to be completed end 2012.
* The Narrows - coming soon.
* Total river trail - 70km.

- NZ Herald

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