Many BayBuzz readers will by now have driven between Napier and Hastings and points south using SH 51 along the coast, passing by Waitangi, Ravensdown and the rest of Awatoto.

You would have noticed that KiwiRail appears to be rebuilding the flood-destroyed rail bridge in exactly the same place and form that has just been shown a failure. Not only was the bridge itself lost, but when water was blocked at the bridge, the result was loss of the stopbank protecting Awatoto and the consequent extensive flooding of that entire sector, compromising Napier’s wastewater treatment, major business operations and residences.

At HBRC’s meeting this week, Councillor Mackintosh questioned whether in fact Kiwirail was simply replacing an obviously vulnerable bridge, implying this might not represent ‘build, back better’.

Council staff responded that KiwiRail was for now focused on restoring service, and reassured that stakeholders including our councils have flagged the issue of investigating what better long-term options might be explored as recovery proceeds.

However, HBRC’s interim chief executive Bill Bayfield jumped in, cautioning that what was billed today as ‘temporary’ might be found in place for 50 years. He recommended that HBRC go on record officially via letter to KiwiRail reinforcing the need for a more resilient future solution. Equally wary Councillors agreed  and that communication will occur.

This episode illustrates the kind of situation that will arise in other key areas, such as ensuring the future resilience of other lifeline assets, most notably electricity supply, where entities like Transpower and Unison, not our local elected officials, are in the driver’s seat.

We have yet to see whether or how the new HB Regional Recovery Agency, which at least reports to local elected officials (or is it the Crown?!), will play a role in these critical infrastructure decisions.


Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. How many decades was that bridge there before the flood protection works failed and washed it out?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *