16 Nov 2015

Residents still in limbo after bridge collapse

8:51 pm on 16 November 2015

People left isolated by the collapse of a bridge in Upper Hutt say they are frustrated the opening of a temporary road to their homes has taken so long.

Residents on Bridge Road in Birchville standing near their collapsed bridge over the Akatarawa River.

Residents on Bridge Road in Birchville standing near their collapsed bridge over the Akatarawa River. Photo: RNZ/Max Towle

Last month, floodwaters damaged the middle pier of the crossing over the Akatarawa River in the suburb of Birchville, cutting off access for 62 homes.

The Upper Hutt Council has been cutting a path through the Akatarawa forest, but has blamed bad weather for delaying the road's opening from last week to this Thursday.

Residents can be led along the unsealed road by a contractor at each end, but only three times a day.

Terri Fordham lives on Bridge Road and said the contractors had been helpful, but she wished council staff had a more personal approach.

"The constant emails or Facebook or website updates are the only way of keeping in touch - we didn't see anybody," she said.

"That would have been helpful, I can't stress that enough. To feel this isolated is horrible, just a word asking how we are or what we need."

She said many residents had chosen to leave.

"The streets became very quiet during the second week because some families or older people with ailments had to move," she said.

"A lot of people had to leave their pets and there were a lot of cats roaming the streets - it reminded me of Christchurch after the earthquakes in that way.

"Nobody came, nobody called, and the few people who were left felt very isolated, which wasn't a nice feeling."

The bridge at Bridge Road in the Upper Hutt suburb of Birchville has visibly slumped.

The bridge at Bridge Road in the Upper Hutt suburb of Birchville has visibly slumped. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Another resident, Terry Horne, said things were improving but being restricted to three journey times a day was a hassle.

"They should really keep it open for a little bit longer because some people get stuck in the traffic in Wellington - everyone's having to leave work early," he said.

"If you finish at 5pm, you've got half an hour to get in the line and if you miss it, you miss have to leave your car and walk the long track."

He said it would be a massive relief when the new road opened.

Upper Hutt City Council infrastructure manager Lachlan Wallach said he had not heard any complaints over the bridge.

Mr Wallach said he hoped the temporary road would be sealed by the end of the week.

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