Independent commissioners are backing the $18 million replacement Kawarau Falls bridge.

Commissioners Denis Nugent and Jane Taylor recommended in their report to the Queenstown Lakes District Council to approve the notice of requirement to authorise the construction, operation and maintenance of a new bridge across the Kawarau River at Kawarau Falls, with conditions.

"Although we have disagreed over the detail of how the future of the existing bridge is handled, we are in agreement that the notice of requirement . . . represents sustainable management of natural and physical resources and should be confirmed," the commissioners said.

The conditions dealt with management planning for the environment, dust, noise, traffic, archaeology and landscaping. However, commissioner Taylor's recommended modification to the notice concerned the future use of the existing 87-year-old bridge.


The modification called for the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to maintain the state highway status of the existing bridge until arrangements ensured its long term availability for pedestrians and cyclists.

The transport agency proposed, "in time", to realign State Highway 6 to cross the Kawarau River on a new two-lane bridge east of the existing bridge.

It served a notice of requirement to the council to alter the designation for State Highway 6 in the district plan by including within it land required for the new bridge and associated works, including construction areas, and authorising the construction, operation and maintenance of the new bridge.

The notice provided for a 252m long and 13.8m wide bridge, to curve from the existing highway south of the Kawarau River 150m east of the existing bridge, to join the northern bank immediately to the east of the existing bridge.

The bridge would carry two traffic lanes with 1.5m shoulders and a 1.8m pedestrian footpath on the eastern side.

There would be emergency access to the existing bridge, although a locked gate would stop other vehicles.

All submitters other than the Queenstown Trails Trust, which was neutral, supported the notice of requirement. Only the Queenstown Airport Corporation supported the notice unconditionally, while the remaining seven submitters gave conditional support.

About 450 vehicles crossed the bridge per hour, which rose to about 580 per hour in the evening peak of 5pm to 6pm. However, in the Christmas and New Year period, about 750 vehicles per hour, attempted to cross, which caused exceptionally long queues and frustration among motorists.

More than 70,000 individuals a year in jet boats used the section of the waterway. The existing bridge also connected cycle and pedestrian trails across the river.

Council transport manager and submitter Denis Mander said yesterday he understood the agency, as the requiring authority, had 30 working days to advise Lakes Environmental whether it accepted, or rejected, the recommendations in whole or in part, or whether it proposed to modify the requirement.

"Lakes Environmental will then advise us and other submitters of the decision and appeal rights," Mr Mander said.

NZTA spokesman Bob Nettleton said yesterday agency staff received the 51-page report and were looking through it.