As the one-year anniversary of the Edgecumbe flood approaches and the town keeps moving forward, locals say there is one bugbear that continues to be overlooked.

And that is the dilapidated Edgecumbe Bridge.

The bridge is the entrance way into the town if you are travelling west, and, according to Rangitaiki Community Board chairwoman Charelle Stevenson, is an absolute disgrace.

"The horrible green paint is peeling off, the rails are covered in moss and mould and there are weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalk of the bridge – it's an eyesore," Stevenson said.

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Before the April 6 flood, Stevenson had already brought the matter up with the Whakatane District Council in the hope it could talk to the New Zealand Transport Agency about having the bridge water blasted and repainted.

The Edgecumbe Rangitaiki River Bridge is in need of a facelift. Photo / Katee Shanks
The Edgecumbe Rangitaiki River Bridge is in need of a facelift. Photo / Katee Shanks

Because the bridge is on State Highway 2, repair and maintenance of the bridge falls under the care of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

"Early in 2017 scaffolding went up in the bridge as part of what I understand was Fonterra doing something with a pipeline," Stevenson said. "As soon as I saw the scaffolding I thought it was a golden opportunity for our bridge to be refurbished.

"I raised the matter with fellow Rangitaiki Community Board members 13 months ago [pre-flood] and, in turn, we brought it to the attention of Whakatane District Council."

Stevenson says, since then, the council had "pushed and pushed" the matter with transport agency on Edgecumbe's behalf but to no avail.

"It's depressing coming over that bridge and into our town," Stevenson said. "Not to take anything away from all of the good happening in Edgecumbe, you can't get away from that bridge.

"We've made an appeal to them [NZTA] through council, that the refurbishment could be done to help the town, to lift spirits and bring back the pride, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

"Every other organisation or agency we have approached, and those that have approached us, since the flood has bent over backwards to help out, but not NZTA."

Members of the Edgecumbe community had also raised the state of the bridge with the community board.

"As well as Edgecumbe individuals and groups, former Whakatane Mayor Bob Byrne also got in contact to discuss the bridge and ask what he could do to help."

Byrne described the condition of the bridge as "bloody awful".

"The cost to refurbish it would be far outweighed by the good it would do for the people of Edgecumbe. They deserve to have a structure at the front door of their town to be proud of," he said.

New Zealand Transport Agency Bay of Plenty transport system manager Rob Campbell said the agency understood the impact the flooding in Edgecumbe and surrounding areas had on people and was pleased to see the community getting back on its feet again.

"During the flooding we worked hard to reopen state highways for people in the Whakatane District and we have replaced roadside signs and partially funded new LED street lighting in Edgecumbe," Campbell said.

"Our current system will not allow us to fund the painting of the bridge as it doesn't fit under state highway maintenance and renewal and there are currently no funds available, however we are keen to continue discussing what can be done."