Whanganui's new Upokongaro Bridge has finally been launched, just hours before New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown.

Conditions were calm for the Upokongaro Bridge placement. Photo / Bevan Conley
Conditions were calm for the Upokongaro Bridge placement. Photo / Bevan Conley

High tide was at noon, the river was low and calm, and conditions were perfect when Emmetts Civil Construction and Crane Services staff put the new and long-awaited foot and cycle bridge across the Whanganui River yesterday.

The 130m long suspension bridge was rolled to the river's edge on two trucks, lowered onto a pontoon by a crane, and then floated across the river.

On the Upokongaro side it was hoisted onto the abutment prepared for it by another crane, then bolted into place.

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It has been a long wait for this bridge, which was supposed to be in place by April last year.

It was held up by the necessity for the Whanganui District and Horizons Regional councils to liaise with the local Nga Paerangi hapu under the Whanganui River's 2017 Te Awa Tupua legislation.

The Upokongaro cycle and foot bridge being placed over the Whanganui River. Photo / Bevan Conley
The Upokongaro cycle and foot bridge being placed over the Whanganui River. Photo / Bevan Conley

Papaiti Rd was closed at two points as the bridge was moved across the river, and residents were notified, district council chief executive Kym Fell said.

Power lines that were in the way had been put underground.

The public were not encouraged to watch the launch, for safety reasons, and to make the operation easier for contractors.

The bridge will not be usable for at least four to six months, Fell said. The cycleway on the Papaiti side needs more work and bridge entrances have to be made.

The bridge is a vital link in the Mountains to Sea cycleway and Te Araroa trail. The budget for the project was $2.3 million, with half paid by the NZ Transport Agency - but the budget may have been exceeded by delays and changes.

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