Closed bridge stifles growing business


Airport Garden Centre owners Tracy and Owen Pratt say they are losing at least half of their business every day the Narrows Bridge remains closed.

Click here for details of bridge closure

The couple own the garden centre near Rukuhia and since the bridge was closed almost two weeks ago they have noticed a steady decline in customer numbers, reports the Waikato Times.

The bridge was closed on September 16 when the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) was unable to continue monitoring the erosion damage because of the rising Waikato River levels.

Mrs Pratt said the closure had meant that those who would travel from Tamahere to the store have had to drive a further 30 minutes on a detour through the city and then down Ohaupo Rd – and many just didn’t bother.

She said they understood that it wasn’t anybody’s fault but they were frustrated that it has happened at the worst possible time of the year for them.

“It is spring time and we do most of our business in this part of the year. We cannot survive the rest of the year if we cannot make the money now.”

NZTA state highway manager Kaye Clarke said it was expected that the bridge would be reopened by the end of October, weather permitting.

“We are doing everything we can to reopen the existing bridge before the end of October but that will depend on how quickly we can complete the assessment of the erosion near the existing structure and what that assessment shows us,” Ms Clarke said.

“We can’t complete the assessment until the river levels have receded and we can see if any further erosion damage has occurred.”

A fourth foundation to allow a temporary Bailey bridge to be installed immediately downstream of the existing bridge was completed yesterday.

The Bailey bridge will provide one lane of traffic, controlled by traffic signals.

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