• Patrick McBride

Ahaura River Bridge replacement in full swing

Work on the $25m Ahaura Bridge replacement is well underway

A crane taking up position.

PHOTO: Matt Kersten

The Ahaura River Bridge replacement project with a price tag of $25 million replaces one of the last single-lane bridges on SH7 in the Grey District.

Once complete, the replacement bridge at Ahaura will improve travel times and road safety for all road users and increase the resilience and reliability of State Highway 7 – a key inland link from Westport to Greymouth.

Additional improvements include a pedestrian path on the upstream side of the new bridge, a shoulder for cyclists, pedestrian crossing facilities in Ahaura township and improvements to the intersection of Camp Street and Clifton Street.

Grey District Councillor and Ahaura local, Anton Becker has been impressed by the progress.

"It is nothing short of outstanding. You can see the progress on a daily basis, contractors are now working on their relevant contracts at the site works and the actual bridge construction."

"The contractor doing the site works is one of our local companies and it's great to see we have companies available here on the coast to do the work at this speed and standard," Cr Becker said.

A temporary steel and timber ‘staging bridge’ will be installed from the southern abutment out approximately half way across the river bed. The staging bridge will provide access to construction equipment over the river.

When the new Ahaura Bridge is complete, the staging bridge will be completely removed.

Plan for the replacement Ahaura Bridge with the rail bridge closer to the Grey River and the existing road bridge to the right.

Unearthing history

supplied by NZTA

The replacement Ahaura River Bridge project is being carried out under an Archaeological Authority issued by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. A study of the site suggests evidence of early Māori camping sites could potentially be uncovered as Ahaura was a meeting place and stop over point through to Greymouth.

An archaeologist is on-site to help uncover, record and analyse any historical findings. Already we know there are remains of the St Mary’s Catholic Church (1898) and there could be remains from St Mary’s Convent, established in 1872. Evidence of the first Ahaura Bridge (1879) might be found as well as evidence of early European settlement – Gough’s Farm – where the original but modified stables, remain untouched and fenced off.

Scene at Ahaura with St Mary’s Catholic Church in the foreground and the presbytery in the background. Date unknown, circa 1910. Photographer unidentified.