The early opening of the impressive Taparahi viaduct over the landslide cutting the main access to Coromandel East Coast communities, is an extremely welcome acknowledgement of the professional engineering and construction expertise successfully bridging the massive, unstable subsidence.
It is also a timely example of what can be achieved with a commitment to short circuiting red tape, re- purposing critical bridging components from other sites and deploying skilled workers in 24/7 hour shifts, completing an estimated 14-month task in just under seven months and almost 15% under the $50m budget. This project team truly deserves a Shout-out!
Using an existing, proven design for the 124m bridge and concurrently making components onsite and in Napier, enabled construction crews to also improve other sections of the fragile 75km road, enhancing resilience to future extreme weather events and improving safety for road users, especially the heavy vehicles delivering essential supplies without the hazardous, two-hour detour.
Naturally, the impressive success of this daunting engineering task has transport operators asking why the same efficient and most welcome contribution to productivity and national supply chain resilience cannot become the norm. Imagine what impact this unique approach would have if rigorously applied to selected major transport infrastructure projects, notable for protracted delays and inevitable budget blowouts, all too often resulting in sub-standard construction requiring expensive maintenance and cost-cutting.
Disrupted road and rail networks result in drivers exceeding their hours traversing dangerous detours, prolonging delivery times and frustrating customers still recovering from the constraints imposed by Covid and extreme weather events.
For too long, piecemeal funding and ever-changing policies and priorities for roads of national importance with the consequential uncertainty of continuing work, has led to disposal sales of hard to source construction plant and the dispersion of skilled workers, jeopardising completion of the growing list of sub-standard transport networks.
The incoming goverment’s commitment to a resilient, four lane, all-weather highway linking Northport, Hamilton and Tauranga, bypassing the notorious Brynderwyn section, will dramatically improve safety and productivity, reducing accidents and fuel consumption, while shortening travel times.
Another delay to upgrading the fragile Cook Strait ferry capability will frustrate transport operators welcoming the latest extension to Northland’s once derided but now lauded ‘Holiday Highway’. There has been periodic reference to the need to replace the outdated dry dock in Devonport which is not capable of supporting all present, let alone future, vessels. Both the Royal NZ Navy and commercial operators require a future-proof drydock capable of avoiding long repair and maintenance voyages to Australia and Singapore, especially for the incoming new Cook Strait ferries.
Perhaps the incoming Ministers of Transport, Infrastructure and Economic Development will surprise us with a comprehensive plan to deliver a long-awaited boost to the national economy through a fully funded, long-term road and rail construction programme where it is most needed.
This strategic approach would focus on just one or two key routes receiving all necessary resourcing to be completed quickly, without any deterioration in key construction and performance criteria.
Extending reliable, all-weather access to Northport and the Port of Tauranga would give confidence to multi-modal transport operators advocating the need for resilient supply routes to key logistics hubs.
In fact, to ensure resilience throughout the national supply chain, look no further than the impressive team effort in restoring the critical SH26A ahead of time and under budget, thanks to the skills and commitment of project staff unencumbered by the dreaded regulations.
Once this highly successful construction team has recovered from their well-deserved end of year break, perhaps they could start on Auckland’s second harbour crossing?
Are you out and about throughout these Summer holidays? Please respect warning signs, the ubiquitous road cones and especially the construction crews working on our behalf.
Be extra careful out there.
Responsible Care NZ, the chemical industry association.
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Responsible Care NZ