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OPENED FOR TRAFFIC

New Bridge Over the Rakaia

Roading System and Defence

Speeches at Saturday's Ceremony

Before a large assemblage of people from both sides of the Rakaia river, and an official party representative of many local bodies and other organisations interested, the Minister for Public Works, the Hon. R. Semple, on Saturday morning declared the new road traffic bridge across the Rakaia river open for traffic. A grey day, with a chilly east wind and a threat of rain made weather conditions unfavourable, but fortunately rain held off until the ceremony at the bridge-head was completed. A platform had been erected at the nor- v them wing, where the speeches were made. Nearby was a bronze plate commemorating, in a few words, the salient facts of the record of the new bridge. The arrangements for the opening were made by the Automobile Association Canterbury. •

AN IMPORTANT OCCASION

"The occasion is one of the most important in the history of Canterbury," said Mr H. C. Harley, president of the association, who presided. He regretted the absence of the Prime Minister, who was engaged op public duties elsewhere, and read congratulatory messages from other cabinet ministers. Fording the River Mr A. N, Grigg, M.P. for Mid-Can-terbury, was the first speaker. He said that the old bridge was opened in May 1873, almost sixty-six years ago. Its completion had been of the greatest importance (to the early settlers. Previously those wishing to N cross the river had to do so by means of bull<3fck-drays ah uncertain, and sometimes dangerous task, especially when nor'-westers were blowing. His father, at the age of eight years, crossed in that way accompanied by an aunt. He pictured the company that would have assembled at the bridge opening sixty-six years ago. The people would have come in carts and other horse-drawn vehicles or riding horseback, but all would have been feeling relief that the anxieties of fording the river were over. He congratulated those responsible for the construction of the new bridge, which was an achievement to be proud of. It was not so many years ago that ~ users of the main road had to ford ■"V the Selwyn river, but much progress had been made since then and with the completion of the new road deviation from Hinds to Winchester, andthe opening of the new bridge over the Rangitata, motorists would be able to travel alongside the railway line from Christehurch to Timaru in almost the same time that the train m took from Christehurch to Rakaia in the early days. Need for Defence "The Prime Minister has been appealing to the people to help to build a nation," Mr Grigg went on to say, "but how far that is going to „ be successful it is too early to judge. The Minister of Defence is also 'appealing for volunteers; so far, to say the least, that response has been disappointing. With world affairs as ! they are, it is not right that we j should sit down here and leave New i Zealand, compared with other countries, almost undefended, except for a few ships and a comparatively few aeroplanes. If this country is worth building bridges for, it is worth defending and.it is up to all of us to wake up and take an interest in it." ff _.• Tribute to Minister v Mr Harley said that the erection •-^Y of the bridge was another milestone in the progress of the country and it would be of great service to gen-

Minister Stresses Importance of Air Arm

erations to come. It would remove certain dangers attached to the use of the old bridge and there would be a saving of time and a convenience which would be appreciated by motorists and others. He paid a tribute to all who had contributed to its building, and while not forgetful of the physical, mental, and scientific efforts of those so engaged, there should not be forgotten the part played by the Government, especially the Hon. Mr Semple, who had displayed vision, enterprise, and foresight in developing the dominion's roading system. Whatever side of politics one might be on, credit must be given where credit was due, he said. The cost of the new bridge was being met by the Main Highways Board which derived its funds from petrol and other taxes on motorists. Last year this amounted to £2,601,000 —a huge sum, but when they saw major works of this kind undertaken, motorists would realise the vast sums of money that were needed to carry out a progressive scheme of roads and bridges. Many motorists considered that they were over-taxed but they would have some consolation in seeing this necessary bridge completed. The motor associations S throughout New Zealand were co-operating with the Minister in his efforts to keep the highways safe by roading improvements and by trying to reduce accidents. The Minister should be given credit for the.work he had done in this direction, which had resulted in many valuable lives being saved. On behalf of his association, Mr Harley presented the Minister with a greenstone memento of the occa-1 sion and in appreciation of his work I for safety on the highways. Belief for County Councils Congratulations to all concerned in the construction of the bridge were extended by Mr H. J. Crothers, chairman of the Ashburton County Council, and he compared present conditions with the transport hardships which the pioneers of the district experienced. His council had been paying £300 per annum towards the old bridge, but this would now cease and the new structure had been built without cost to the ratepayers of the county. Mr W. Gilmour, chairman of the Selwyn County Council, also congratulated the Minister for Public Works and all others concerned on the building of such a wonderful bridge. His council too, had been paying towards the cost of upkeep of the old bridge and would be very pleased to be relieved of the responsibility. This was all the more so, for during the last twelve months a major flood in the river saw the water flow around the northern end of the bridge and a detour had to be made by people travelling north or south. The old bridge had been placed in

a position where the fall of water was not great and in course of time deposits of silt and shingle had been built up until in some places the bed of the river was not very far below the decking. He hoped that this would not occur with the new bridge. BUILDING THE OLD BRIDGE i SOME INTERESTING DETAILS Mr J. Wood, chairman of the Main Highways Board, in his speech gave some interesting details of the old bridge and its historical associations. He said that Canterbury with its large area of good flat land was easy country for road construction, but its chief obstacles were its' tremendous rivers. The Government of the sixties had been accused of delay in opening the land south of Ashburton, estimated to be worth £400,000. How low land was valued at in those days could be judged from the fact that an area of 14 acres, with a good five-roomed cob house, gardens, barns, and other buildings, fenced, and under cultivation was offered for sale at £300. In May, 1865, a contract for constructing the railway line from Christchurch to Rakaia, a distance of 33g miles, was let to George Holmes and Coy., the work to be done in two years. To show the great growth of traffic and the development of the country, the speaker, quoted figures from a traffic tally^ taken on the bridge in 1867 with those of a recent tally. The older one was over a period of a month and during that time 217 horsemen, 68 foot passengers, 187 passengers by mail coach, 54 vehicles, 40 pack horses, 48 bullock teams, and 534 head of sheep and cattle used the bridge. Last year's tally showed 400 motor vehicles per day used the bridge and the other traffic was1 not worth mentioning. An ordinance published in December 1868 set out the toll fees that were to be paid^y those using the bridge. They we«e: Passengers on foot 2/-, two-wheeled vehicles 2/6, four-wheeled 4/-, horses, asses, and mules, and cattle 1/-, sheep, goats, and pigs Id. Later designs for the bridge were prepared, ranging in price up to £140,000, but were all rejected because they were too expensive. Then in 1869, a weaver, Mr William White, submitted a plan which was accepted and later he became the successful contractor. Mr White also built the bridge over the Waimakariri, known as White's bridge for many years, which was replaced some time ago. The first contract was for £21,500 but during progress of the work it was decided to make the bridge a combined rail and road traffic one and a second contract for strengthening the structure was let. It brought the cost to £34,500 and provided a bridge 4480 feet long and 17 feet 6 inches wide. Some idea of the difference in costs could be gained from the fact that carpenters were paid 9/- to 10/- per day and labourers 6/-. In May, 1873, the bridge was opened for traffic, but it was not completed until August of that year. Huts for the gatekeepers were added, bringing the total cost to £36,000. The manner in which the second contract was carried out was^ investigated by a royal commission) which reported that the sum of £6973 had been over-paid or wasted on the ; bridge. There wa3 another commission, this time in 1882, as a result of which it was decided to lengthen the bridge to 5927 feet. It was complained by settlers on the Southbridge bank that the long embankment built on the other side tended to divert water on to the northern side causing erosion. The cost of adding this extension brought the total cost to £43,000. Mr Wood mentioned that a good deal of the timber for the bridge was cut at Little River, taken by punt across Lake Forsyth, then by road (made by the contractors and now forming part of the main road) to Lake Ellesmere where it was taken across the other side and then carted to the site. Pukaki was the name of the paddle steamer on the lake and it was manned by a crew of Greeks. Comparing the cost of the old and new bridges, Mr Wood said that the latter was only 50 per cent greater, !yet it was nearly double the width of the old one. The cost'could be considered to be most economical. The Highways Board was carrying out an extensive programme of bridge building and this year proposed to

construct 30,000 feet of bridging. He congratulated the contractors, the Rope Construction Coy., on making a very fine job of the bridge-and also Mr F. Langbein, the engineer of the Public Works Department and his staff for the preparatory work and supervision. Many Delays Experienced Mr B. V. Rope, representing the contractors, said that he was very proud indeed of having built the longest road traffic bridge in New Zealand. Work was commenced on March, 1937 and was finished well within contract time. This notwithstanding a good many delays. Trouble was first experienced by a shortage of steel wire for the piles, but representations made to Mr Semple, who was then in Australia, resulted in the required quantity being shipped and prompjtly delivered on the site. Then work was held up by shortage of steel for the superstructure. Winter and rough weather conditions also caused delay and so did an "old man" flood. Snow on one occasion had to be disposed of by pouring hot water in the Boxing before concrete could be poured. Then there was a succession of nor'-west gales and flood conditions when time was lost because of drifting sand in the riverbed. He paid a tribute to the work of all engaged on the bridge, €o the engineers of the Public Works Department, and spoke of the interest taken by Mr H. E. Herring in the work when he was member of Parliament for the district. Mr Rope presented to the Hon. Mr Semple a pair of silver scissors as a memento of the occasion. NEW AGE OF TRANSPORT ROADS IN RELATION TO DEFENCE <: The Minister for Public Works, the Hon. R. Semple, in declaring the bridge open, said that it was a good job and he congratulated all concerned upon it. The plans were prepared by the designing office of the Public Works Department. The bridge contained 8400 cubic yards of concrete, 1100 tons of steel, and three and a half miles of reinforced concrete piles. The Minister, after making reference to the commission which investigated the affairs of the old bridge, went on to say that the new one was designed to serve posterity. The old type of bridges now discarded had played their part in the development of the country, but they belonged to a different age. It was the age of high-powered machines and they had to be employed in modern construction. Transport conditions had changed also; the age of the bullock-waggon and the horse had gone, that of the motor vehicle had come and provision had to be made for them. The present Government had been told that it was spending too much money, but he^contended that it was not spending a penny too much and that it was just keeping up with demands. He had just returned from a tour in the Bay of Islands, covering five counties. In that large area of country he came across only two bridges that could be called bridges, but there were 900: one-way bridges and some of them only standing up by force of habit. Everyone of them constituted a death-trap.

A proper loading system was required within the four corners ofc the country and it constituted an integral part of the defence system. Hitler realised that and before he started out to dictate to the world he provided Germany with the best roading system in the world, one which England had just begun to copy. A proper roading system was essential to enable the mobilisation of men and goods, as safely and as quickly as possible.

Replying to remarks made by Mr Grigg, regarding defence, the Minister said that Wing-Commander the Hon. A. R. Cochrane had advised that New Zealand's first line of defence was the air and the Government was working on plans to put that advice into effect. The Public Works Department was doing something more than building roads and bridges, added Mr Semple, it was building aerodromes faster than any other country in the world. At Auckland they were shifting a million and a quarter yards of stuff to build an Aerodrome. Not only aerodromes, but hangars, ground staff, and services were being buiTt up, all this being brought about by the restless

condition of a mad world. By modern j, mechanised plant the department was , shifting earth and rock at a rate unprecedented in the world. Wellington had no road exit worth the name when the Government came into office, only a road through a gorge which had 46 bends and every one 'baptised by the blood of innocent citizens. The plight of the people in event of a bombardment or an earthquake or where prompt evacuation of the city was required would be terrible under the condition« •+*<•--■ existing. He had vdf»-* Wellington »a new _, it at a rate \ work under , —nine months. Under j. .^conditions it would have taken deven years and a large sum of money to complete. Lord Nuffield, who recently saw the work, was impressed with the manner in which it was being tackled. Increase in Motor Registrations Mr Semple quoted to show the rapid way in which motor registrations were growing in New Zealand. United States of America was the highest motorised country per head of population in the world and New Zealand came second, but if benzine and motor cars were as cheap here as in America, he was sure that this dominion would take first place. There was one car for every five of the population, enough to take every man, woman, and child in the country for a ride on a Sunday. It was necessary therefore to make the highways and roads of the country safe for modern traffic. He regarded human life as sacred and would use every power he possessed to protect it. It would mean the expenditure of money but the value of life could not be measured by pounds, shillings and pence. The Public Works Department was doing the maximum to improve the roading system of this country and was literally shifting mountains to do so. It was the best equipped organisation of its kind in the world and was obtaining results that proved this. With regard to the Rakaia bridge, he said that the contractors had done a wonderful job and he congratulated all those associated with it. The work had not been easy and there had been many delays. It was a cheap job too, for the bridge would last for many generations and the cost, £65,000, compared very favourably with that for the old one which : had lasted 66 years. The Minister also paid a tribute to the pioneers of the district who had laid the foundations of a prosperous community. l Mr Semple announced that the ' Government had accepted the tender ] of the Rope Construction Coy. for the building of the'road bridge over ] the railway line to be erected some 1 chains away from the northern end * of the bridge.. The work is expected 1 [to take nine months. l After cutting- the ribbon stretching * across the entrance of the bridge, the ' Minister in his car led a long pro- ' cession of vehicles over the bridge to X the Rakaia Town Hall, where the * official party was entertained at i morning tea by the Automobile * Association. *

In connexion with the Leeston Coii[solidated School fair, a tug-of-war competition is to be held at the Town Hall on the evening of Friday, April 14. The teams are to be of five men and there will be three grades: Up to 45 stone, up to 60 stone and any weight. Competition is open to the whole of the Ellesmere county and to Springston, Lincoln, Greenpark, and Tai Tapu and arso to football or cricket clubs taking part in Ellesmere competitions. Sports bodies are especially asked to enter teams. There will be a first prize of £3 for each grade and entries may be made with the secretary of the fair, Mr G. Stacpoole, DoylestOn, jor with Mr W. S. McLaughlin, Irwell.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EG19390328.2.12

Bibliographic details

OPENED FOR TRAFFIC, Ellesmere Guardian, Volume LX, Issue 24, 28 March 1939

Word Count
3,127

OPENED FOR TRAFFIC Ellesmere Guardian, Volume LX, Issue 24, 28 March 1939

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