The delay in rebuilding the bridge over the Mataura River at Pyramid is like “playing Russian roulette”, Riversdale Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer David Stevenson says.
In Wednesday’s The Ensignit was reported tenders for constructing the new bridge would be called early next month and the contract awarded by May, but construction was expected to take 18 months.
Mr Stevenson said the brigade had to travel to the Otama side of the river via the bridge at Wendon, which added an 10 minutes to the time before the fire crew could arrive at a callout.
It was only a matter of time before someone died because emergency services could not get there in time, he said.
“That’s playing Russian roulette, in my opinion – it’s not an if, it’s a when, because that’s just the nature of the beast,” Mr Stevenson said.
The problem was highlighted to him when the brigade was called to two separate incidents near the Pyramid bridge in the past month.
Until then the brigade had not attended any callouts to the Otama side of the river since a section of the bridge was swept away in February last year.
In the first incident a driver hit a power pole.
“She didn’t get hurt, but the potential for her to get hurt was really bad.
“The Gore fire brigade beat us there because we were 10 minutes longer going around that other way.
“That could have been a difference between life or death.”
In the second callout, it was fortunate that downed power lines did not set a shelter belt on fire, which in his experience almost always happened, Mr Stevenson said.
“By the time we got there that [shelter belt] would have been gone.”
Riversdale First Response station manager David Hurley said having the bridge out doubled the time it took the ambulance to arrive at a callout.
“It is very frustrating for us as a first responder.
“It’s very inconvenient,” Mr Hurley said.
A possible solution might be for the councils to ask the New Zealand Army to build a temporary bridge, Mr Hurley said.
“I know they are looking for exercises and things to do.”
Gore District Council transport manager Peter Standring said building a new Pyramid bridge was a joint project involving the Gore District Council, Southland District Council and NZTA.
“The GDC has committed a lot of time and resources to date, although we can appreciate the sense of frustration felt by some residents.
“A new widened single-lane bridge is a significant project and developing a detailed business case, securing funding, finalising design work and going through the tender process are, by their very nature, time-consuming,” Mr Standring said.
Mr Standring said to the best of his knowledge the council had not been contacted by Riversdale Fire Brigade or St John regarding response time concerns.