THE Waioeka Bridge is clean and looking spick-and-span for the holiday season. Photos Sven Carlsson OS0191-01

PRIDE and enjoyment rules as Opotiki’s gateway to the west is beautified for the holiday season.

Opotiki’s Waioeka Bridge has been cleaned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, which for a long time said it had neither budget nor responsibility for the job.

After ongoing grassroots pressure, it changed its stance announcing the bridge would be cleaned in time for the Christmas holidays.

Opotiki deputy mayor Shona Browne said she “just loves driving into town, seeing a beautiful and freshly-painted bridge, after all this time”.

“It took a community to come onboard and achieve this outcome,” she said.

“Thank you Opotiki for getting NZTA to listen to us and come to the party, cleaning up our bridge.”

Bay of Plenty transport systems manager Rob Campbell agreed, saying it was fantastic to see the Waioeka Bridge cleaned, painted and looking great in time for summer.

“The scaffolding surrounding the iconic 92-year-old bridge has come down, and the refurbishment is finished,” he said.

“The gateway to Opotiki has been restored to its former glory, the bridge is looking almost brand new.”

Mr Campbell said the NZTA knew this was a significant and long-awaited project for the community and he hoped the Opotiki community and those visiting the area would enjoy the finished product.

“Cleaning, treating and painting the large structure presented a complicated task for us and our contractors,” he said

“A lot of time was spent finding a method that would allow the bridge to be cleaned to a high standard, while ensuring the preservation of the surrounding environment.”

Mr Campbell said in spite of these challenges, the project had been a huge success.

Higgins project manager Roger Greaves said protecting the waterway beneath the bridge was a top priority.

“We made sure there was a thorough environmental management plan in place to ensure no contaminants entered the Waioeka River or the stormwater system which feeds into it.”

Contractors were also able to identify and complete several concrete repairs on both sides of the bridge during the process.

Mr Campbell said that with the cleaning now finished, the NZTA was investigating methods to refurbish the historical plaque on the inside of the bridge.

Opotiki district councillor Louis Rapihana said it was great to see the bridge cleaned and looking beautiful.

“This is a huge tick to those involved with getting it to its clean state today,” he said.

“Now we need to look at the actual signage of the town and keeping this work going through the district.”

Mr Rapihana said the “Welcome to Opotiki” signage needed upgrading.

“I think they also need to be redesigned to beautify the entrance to our township,” he said.

The cleaning and the repainting of the Waioeka Bridge began on Monday, October 14.

Contractors worked overnight, seven days a week, between 6pm and 6am to minimise the impact on motorists.