Media Release - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Westland District Council has decided to close the Hokitika Gorge lower suspension bridge from 1 October 2023.
“Council has been working on the future of the suspension bridge,” advises Karl Jackson, Transportation Manager. “It was important that the visitor experience to the Hokitika Gorge is not diminished, however, visitor safety at the site is paramount. The future of the structure has been discussed for over ten years and now we have to start making decisions.”
“The structure has a long history in the area, it was built in 1933 and is around 90 years old, although almost every part of it has been replaced at some point over this time. The stage it is at now is there is an increasing risk of structural failure.”
High priority maintenance requirements identified in the WSP ‘present value end of life’ (PVEoL) inspection and report from August 2022 have not been carried out due to funding constraints. While a successful application for $150,000 has been made to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund (TIF), along with a $50,000 Council contribution, to undertake maintenance to extend the life of the structure, this would only be short-term as a new structure is needed.
“In order to stay open past October 2023, the high priority maintenance works will need to be completed using the TIF funding and Council contribution. In September staff will provide a report to Council outlining the PEVoL analysis and options for ongoing maintenance, renewals, and possible replacement and demolition of the present bridge structure, and seek a decision on the future direction of the structure.”
“Fortunately, the second suspension bridge further up the Gorge can be used to provide alternative access to the opposite side of the river. While it will be necessary to close part of the track to the WDC suspension bridge it is still intended that the viewing platform and other significant sections of this track will remain open in order to maintain the visitor experience.”
Department of Conservation Hokitika Operations Manager Owen Kilgour says the Hokitika Gorge Walk is an iconic West Coast destination for international and domestic visitors.
“It is a very important asset for the community and a real drawcard for visitors in attracting them to Hokitika as a destination.
“While the swing bridge is owned by the Westland District Council, and it’s for them to make decisions about its future, DOC clearly has a strong interest in the Gorge. We’re supporting the Council to develop a long-term solution.
“DOC has done some contingency planning to ensure we continue to deliver a world class visitor experience at the Gorge despite the bridge closure.
“We will temporarily reroute the Hokitika Gorge Walk offering two out and back experiences; a short, fully accessible walk to the first viewpoint and a longer one over the new bridge to the “beach” area.”
Media enquiries to:
Emma Rae, Strategy and Communications Advisor