DOC has temporarily closed three popular bridges in the Wānaka area for safety reasons.
The Department says the Blue Pools and Rob Roy bridges require upgrade work to ensure there are measures in place should a key component fail, while the Makarora bridge has reached the end of its operational life.
DOC Central Otago Operations Manager, David Butt says while the closures will be frustrating for people who want to visit these sites, visitor safety is at the heart of the decision.
“These are popular sites that see a high level of visitation, particularly over the summer months. Engineering advice is that they cannot sustain the current usage, and with visitor numbers continuing to increase, we need to make them safer,” he said.
The Blue Pools and Makarora bridges, both on the popular Blue Pools Track, are visited on average by around 550 people a day in January, with around 75 people per hour crossing during peak time. The bridges also provide high water access to the Young Valley and Gillespie Pass Circuit.
Rob Roy Bridge, which is the only access to the Rob Roy glacier track, sees around 180 people per day over summer.
As part of DOC’s regular schedule of maintenance, the bridges were flagged in the system for major upgrade and replacements two years ago.
“We’ve taken on board expert advice and made the call to close the bridges while we can complete the necessary work. It’s not that there is a known fault, it’s the unknown, through heavy use and potential wear and tear that might not be visible. We need to err on the side of caution,” said Mr Butt.
Work on replacements and upgrades for the three structures is underway and planned to be completed during the summer season, he said.