Heaphy Bridge last week
Image: DOC

Introduction

Structural engineers have confirmed that flood-damaged Heaphy Bridge on the Heaphy Great Walk is a write-off but it’s possible that Gunner Bridge can be fixed.

Highlights

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Date:  22 February 2022

Torrential rain during two storms earlier in the month damaged the bridges and other visitor infrastructure on the Heaphy and across Buller district and the wider West Coast.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Buller Operations Manager Suvi van Smit says a four-person team flew in late last week to assess damage to the bridges between Mackay and Heaphy huts.

“They confirmed that Heaphy Bridge can’t be fixed. It’s possible that the anchor and tower foundations on the true right of the bridge can be reused. The stainless-steel fittings on the bridge can also be removed for use on the replacement.

“The good news is that the team found that Gunner Bridge is fixable.”

In addition to the bridge damage between Mackay and Heaphy huts there is a slip on Mackay Hill which needs to be cleared, she says.

DOC has established a Buller Floods Recovery Project Team and Governance Group to co-ordinate the work of fixing damage on Heaphy and other tracks.

Suvi van Smit says the assessment team’s findings will determine what work needs to be done to safely re-open the track.

“We hope to be able to release more information about costs and a timeline for the works later this week. We’re very mindful of the impact the damage to these DOC visitor attractions is having on the community which is also having to deal with flood damage to infrastructure such as the Karamea highway.”

The section of Heaphy Track from Kōhaihai to Heaphy Hut/Campsite and Scotts Beach Campsite is open. This section can be booked through DOC’s camps, huts and lodges booking system for people wanting to walk in and out on the West Coast side.

The track between Brown Hut and James Mackay Hut is in good condition and open. Bookings can be made for ‘in and out’ trips from the Golden Bay side, using Brown, Perry Saddle, Gouland Downs, Saxon and James Mackay huts and campsites, on the Great Walks booking system. Any existing bookings can be either cancelled (with a full refund) or re-arranged.

The section between Heaphy Hut and James Mackay Hut remains closed and through trips will not be possible until further notice.

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