Many pan bridge plan

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Voicing concern ... East Gore resident Lynn Gray has launched a petition calling on people to oppose the building of a cycle and walkway bridge over the Mataura River, as mentioned in the Longford Shared Path business case. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

According to an online petition, nearly 1000 people think the proposed footbridge over the Mataura River is a bad idea.

Last month, the Gore District Council announced plans to build a footbridge across the river, about 650m upstream from the existing traffic bridge.

The bridge would have pipes attached to it that would carry water across the river from the Jacobstown wells and Hilbre Ave reservoir to the East Gore water treatment plant.

The NZ Transport Agency would fund $2.1million of the $3.7million cost of the bridge.

The petition, which was started by East Gore’s Lynn Gray about a month ago, had 912 signatures at 3pm on Tuesday when The Ensign went to print.

Mrs Gray said she started the petition because she was concerned about the secrecy regarding the council’s plans for the bridge.

“It’s been hidden away behind in-committee meeting for months,” Mrs Gray said.

“A lack of information from council has led to confusion about what is actually being proposed.

“A petition gets it out there and I update the petitioners to progress as time moves forward.”

After her husband David put an Official Information Act request to the council, the couple received a copy of the Longford Shared Path business case which was dated April 2019.

The document detailed the building of a cycle walkway bridge.

“Nothing was made public about this until over a year later.”

Considering there were 4000 households in Gore and Mataura, the number of people who had signed the petition was significant, she said.

“Nearly 1000 getting upset about it, that’s quite a percentage,” Mrs Gray said.

“The people who are reacting, they’re pretty darn serious about it.

“They are up in arms about it.”

She believed the prospect of the NZ Transport Agency funding might have influenced the plan.

“I don’t think the council has thought it through properly.

“It’s just been like ‘yay get NZTA on board’.”

She was opposed to the bridge which would be sited about 50m from her house.

“We don’t want a bridge outside our place, 39m high with issues of light pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution and flood risks,” Mrs Gray said.

However, it was important the town’s water supply was improved.

“There is no question about that but we need to do it in the most cost-effective way.”

Mrs Gray favoured the council’s third option for a bridge which was to locate it further upstream.

It was also a shorter distance for the water to be piped between the Jacobstown wells and the water treatment station in East Gore.

As well as signing the petition, many Gore residents had left comments.

“People are upset about the environmental impacts of lighting, noise control and visual impacts.

“Another big concern is the safety of children potentially coming out on to the [Surrey St] truck bypass.”

The Ensign contacted three people who had signed and commented on the petition.

Philippa Eaves said the bridge was a “gross waste of money to Gore ratepayers”.

She called it “totally unnecessary and very irresponsible of our council”.

Adam Newton said he had written the council a “considerable” letter outlining his concerns about the bridge.

“It’s like they’ve got a bottomless pit of people’s money that they feel like they need to spend willy-nilly without doing due process,” Mr Newton said.

“If we need a bridge to get a pipe across the river then that’s great, but you can’t just, at the 11th hour, say are doing’ and then fudge the figures to try and make your argument work when everyone can see right through it.”

Rena Butel said building the bridge was a waste of money, in her opinion.

“We’ve already got a bridge there that we can bike across and walk across.

“I don’t see the need for another bridge.”

Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry said people wanting to have their say about the project were encouraged to do so via the resource consent process.

“Only formal submissions lodged have standing, and under the Resource Management Act the commissioner delegated to make a decision on this application cannot take into account any petition,” Mr Parry said.

“The Grays have been made aware of this.”