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Anderton Should Thank Me Over Bridge

"Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton should be thanking me, not damning me, over the decision to close a small bridge on the Maungapohatu Road," National's Conservation spokesperson Nick Smith said today.

The Kopae Bridge was closed yesterday following a routine inspection after heavy rainfall. Mr Anderton today called for Dr Smith's resignation claiming the bridge had collapsed. Dr Smith, Minister of Conservation after the Cave Creek tragedy, put in place the Visitor Asset Management Strategy so that structures would be inspected regularly.

"He should be thanking me for the effective systems put in place when I was Minister that ensures such structures are regularly checked today," Dr Smith said.

"The real agenda behind Mr Anderton's statement is a pre-emptive strike over Government plans to spend $330,000 in the Budget upgrading the roads, outside of normal Department Policy. How else can such a statement emerge from the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand about the closure of a bridge in the back of beyond that is so small it is planned to be replaced by a culvert?

"The Conservation Minister is determined to spend over $330,000, with an ongoing maintenance liability of $30,000 per year, on this road to private Maori land part-owned by the Minister's friend Tama Iti.

"The Minister will face objection to any sweetheart deal that has one set of rules about road funding here and another for other roads throughout the country. The Department has not previously funded roads to private property, and on roads serving a joint purpose the cost has been shared." Dr Smith said.

Ends


'The last DOC engineer inspection found the bridges safe provided they were well checked after each heavy rainfall'. Report to Minister on Maungapohatu Road, 13 January 2000.

'Currently the road is considered to be of low use for public access although it is important for tangata whenua for access into enclaves at Maungapohatu. Under the criteria assessed using the Visitor Asset Management Strategy (VAMS) system this road would not be maintained'. Report by Conservator Peter Williamson, 17 May 2000.


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