About 1 pm on 3 September, four French trampers coming off the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk fell into the river after a cable parted causing the Hopuruahine Suspension Bridge to tip.
Deputy Director General of Conservation Mike Slater says, “Thank goodness no one was badly hurt. In association with our Tuhoe partners, we will be making sure that these people are being well cared for and all our visitor needs are being met.”
DOC staff and Tuhoe are working closely together to investigate this incident. The site has been secured for impending investigations to be undertaken by independent health and safety inspectors and engineers. Signage is in place at the huts, at the bridge and visitor centre as well as through the water taxi advising the bridge is closed and unable to be used. Alerts have also been uploaded on the DOC website.
The bridge spans approximately 65 m across the river and is 8.5 m above the water at the start/end of the track. The bridge is rated for ten people at one time.
‘We are awaiting the outcome of the inspectors and engineers reports to determine what happened’. says Mike Slater. ‘The bridge was last inspected one year ago by a qualified DOC inspector in September 2014 and inspected by an engineer in November 2013.’
The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk remains open from Onepoto road end to Whanganui Hut. Until further notice it is to be walked in one direction only, starting from Onepoto. Water taxi pick up has been arranged from Whanganui Hut at 2 pm daily.
DOC manages 13,000 visitor structures of which 4,000 are bridges. The structures all have 2 yearly inspections by qualified DOC staff, 6 yearly inspections by qualified engineers and every 12 years loading tests are done on bridges.
DOC is confident that the management systems in place ensure that all visitor structures managed by DOC are up to standard.
Te Urewera Board will be issuing a statements on this matter as updated information comes to hand.
Te Urewera is a legal entity in its own right governed by a Tuhoe-Crown Board. Tuhoe and DOC work together on operational management in Te Urewera.