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$2m Footbridge Across Flood-prone Creek To Make Walking Safer For Students

Auckland students who short-cut through a potentially flooded creek to get to school will soon have a safer option.

The Franklin Local Board are pulling out all the stops to build a $2 million footbridge across the Whangapouri Creek in Pukekohe, scheduled for construction in May-June.

Currently, students walking and riding to schools in the rural south Auckland area have been taking a short-cut across a creek which floods significantly during heavy rain.

Board chair Angela Fulljames said the footbridge would be funded from the Transport Transport Capital Fund.

“It is a big financial commitment for us, and one that has meant other transport-related projects have had to be put on hold or have had less funding made available to them," Fulljames said.

“But ignoring the risks to children, who we know were taking all kinds of potentially dangerous short cuts near the creek, was not an option."

The bridge will extend the existing Jutland Road footpath about 50 metres to Belmont Road, creating a 3.5m-wide shared path for people walking, or riding their bikes and scooters.

The new footbridge will be raised 3.7m above the creek to connect neighbourhoods and provide access to kura, and other community facilities.

"We make no apology for prioritising the safety of our people, particularly young ones who may not understand the dangers they are exposing themselves to.”

Schools nearby like Tamaoho School and early childhood education centres would benefit from the footbridge.

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Tamaoho School tumuaki (principal) Amanda Wynyard said their board worked hard with the Franklin Board when the school was being built to get a crossing.

"They identified a risk for learners especially when raining across Whangapouri Creek with slip hazards," Wynyard said.

"We really excited to see this project come together for our learners so they can be kept safe while walking to school."

She said the new footbridge may encourage more learners to walk to school, which would cut down traffic on the local roads.

Franklin Ward Councillor Andy Baker, who was board chairperson when it decided to fund the bridge, welcomed the news construction was set to begin.

“It will provide a shorter, better and safer access for children, residents and people just wanting to stroll about and enjoy their own neighbourhood," Baker said.

“The decision to commit more than $2 million to build the bridge was not without its critics, but it was made because the advice was that the area was too dangerous for pedestrians, especially children.

He agreed the cost of the project was huge, but they always felt something needed to be done.

“How could we have sat back and kept deferring things, or hoping funding would materialise from somewhere else.

“The crossing point the kids use now is part of a storm water catchment and is designed to flood in heavy rain. It is untenable to ignore that risk.”

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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