Photo: Supplied / Waka Kotahi
Mana whenua in Tai Rāwhiti have held a blessing ceremony before the construction of a temporary bridge that will reconnect communities cut off since Cyclone Gabrielle.
The Bailey bridge will replace the Hikuwai #1 bridge between Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay, which was destroyed by the cyclone.
Waka Kotahi maintenance and operations regional manager Jaclyn Hankin said the blessing by Dr Wayne Ngata, Mark Kopua and Iwiata Williams was symbolic of mana whenua support for the works.
"We've been working closely with mana whenua and the Tokomaru Bay community in particular, to progress the bridge as quickly as possible," Hankin said.
"While our team has been working on the bridge design, consents and other logistics like services and utilities relocation, mana whenua have pulled out all the stops to deliver a cultural impact assessment for the works in record time.
"I'm keen to recognise the effort of Dr Wayne Ngata in particular, who has put many hours of work into this."
Construction will begin on Monday and was expected to take two months, weather dependent.
The design was discussed at an online hui for the Tokomaru Bay community on Wednesday afternoon.
It will be 85 metres long and take vehicles up to 50 tonnes.
Meanwhile, work continues on the community-led temporary diversion road across private land owned by the Pourau Incorporation (Potae whānau), which would open a vital temporary route before a permanent solution is in place.
Pourau Incorporation Chair Philip Hope (Te Whānau a Ruatauparete hapū, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti te iwi, Ngāti Porou te iwi) said the bypass road would be key to the recovery effort and provide a lifeline for health, education and social services.
"These roads will also help prevent far greater economic impacts on primary industry, which is critical to sustaining business and families based on the coast," Hope said.